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EU naval force calls for vigilance amid resurgence of pirates

By Abdi, Hashi and Chris Mgidu MOGADISHU (Xinhua) -- European Union anti-piracy taskforce has reiterated the need for continued vigilance for all ships transiting the piracy high area at sea amid resurgence of Somali pirates who are holding an Indian vessel.

EU Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR)) also urged the foreign vessels to adhere to self-protection measures laid down in the Best Management Practices 4 (BMP4) and to report any suspicious sightings to the UK’s Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) centre.

The call follows the pirating of an Indian registered cargo dhow with 11 crew off Somalia coast on April 1.

The EU naval force said its Spanish maritime patrol aircraft has over flown the dhow, which is being held at anchor less than two miles from the coast near to Hobyo in Galmadug.

“Despite several attempts to communicate via VHF radio, EU Naval force has not been able to speak to the crew. It is not clear if a ransom has been demanded for the vessel’s release,” the naval force said in a statement on Tuesday night.

The cargo vessel, the Al Kaushar was en route from Dubai and Somalia’s Puntland port of Bosasso, but on 30 nautical miles off Hobyo was approached by small fishing boat with one man, who outwit crew that wants provisions and food, but later boarded the vessel and threaten the crew with machine gun.

According to regional maritime expert, Andrew Mwangura, the armed pirate succeeded to take control and to seize the merchant vessel, heading to the Somali coast.

“I have not established when the pirates have demanded for a ransom but they are still holding the dhow,” Mwangura told Xinhua by phone on Wednesday.

Somali pirates have in the past received hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom from hijacking vessels resulting in some hostages being injured or killed in the process.

Sources said the vessel was carrying sugar and wheat to the semi-autonomous region of Puntland when Al Kausar was hijacked in the vicinity of Socotra (Island).

Somali pirates tend to be well armed with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade (RPG) and sometimes use skiffs launched from mother vessels, which may be hijacked fishing vessels or dhows, to conduct attacks far from the Somali coast.

The pirating of the Indian dhow comes just three weeks after the fuel tanker, Aris 13, was held for four days by armed pirates.

Whilst not yet confirmed, EU NAVFOR said it’s also investigating reports of another potential piracy incident with a dhow off the coast of Galmadug on Monday.

The naval said its warships and maritime patrol aircraft are continuing their counter-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

Ben Lawellin, Oceans Beyond Piracy’s Project Manager for the Horn of Africa said the hijacked Indian dhow is in the vicinity of the town of Ceel Huur which is south of Hobyo but could not confirm if the pirates have demanded ransom.

“The latest information we have indicates that the dhow is in the vicinity of the town of Ceel Huur which is south of Hobyo. I have heard that a ransom demand has been made, but cannot confirm at this time if this is true or not,” Lawellin told Xinhua.

The African maritime industry, along the Indian Ocean, had been greatly affected by piracy that often raise the costs of shipping as insurance companies and private ship security companies increased their premiums to mitigate the risks.

The piracy incident had also affected the shipping sector by rise of cost of insurance as shippers took extra covers for war risk, kidnap and ransom in addition to conventional underwriting of cargo and hull.

Since Somali piracy is largely a hijack-for-ransom business, it relies heavily on onshore support for infrastructure that provides food, water, fuel and the leafy narcotic khat to the militiamen who guard the hijacked ships throughout the ransom negotiation process. 

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