Archive for the ‘Noel Choong’ Category

Do Pirates Still Exist??

August 27, 2008

An Iranian bulk carrier was one of three ships hijacked by pirates off the Somali coast last Thursday in an unprecedented series of attacks that has brought the number of hijacked ships in the region since April to about 50.
The incidents, which saw the capture of Iranian, German and Japanese ships, brought to six the number of tankers menaced in the Gulf of Aden—between Somalia and Yemen—in the past month. Noel Choong, head of the Kuala Lumpur-based International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center, told the Associated Press that three hijackings in a day “is unheard of.”
The Iranian bulk carrier, with a crew of 29, was “continuously fired” on by pirates before they boarded the Iranian ship and commandeered it.
An Iranian shipping firm has said it is seeking to use diplomacy to secure the release of the sailors but did not identify the crew. “We are trying to use diplomatic means to release sailors of the hijacked Iranian ship which was carrying 40,000 tons of iron ore from China to the Netherlands,” Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) Managing Director Mohammad-Hossein Dajmar said.
The other two ships captured were a Japanese–operated chemical tanker with a crew of 19 and a German-operated cargo ship flying the flag of Antigua and Barbuda with a crew of nine.
Two other hijacking attempts in the region failed Saturday. A Japanese-operated ship managed to escape from armed pirates in two speedboats, while a Liberian cargo ship was rescued by a multinational naval patrol deployed in the area.
Choong said the attacks took place very near to each other, but he was not able to say whether the same group was responsible.
“Whether it’s a different group of pirates, we can’t tell until an investigation is carried out. We have sent out an urgent warning to all ships traveling through the Gulf of Aden,” he told Agence France Presse. Choong added, “Without UN intervention, we can’t do anything because Somalia has no central government.”
The waters off the Somali coast and Nigeria are the most pirate-infested in the world, with the IMB reporting 24 attacks in Somalia and 18 in Nigeria between April and June. Most of the more than 40 captured ships brought ransoms of at least $10,000 and in some cases much more.
Intelligence sources have revealed that there are now two suspicious trawlers in the Gulf of Aden believed to be pirate mother vessels looking to attack ships with the intent to hijack for ransom. The suspected trawlers are described as long, white, Russian made stern trawlers with names “BURUM OCEAN or ARENA or ATHENA.”
“Mother vessels” are ships that proceed far out to sea and launch smaller boats to attack and hijack passing ships.
Last Tuesday, a Malaysian-registered palm oil tanker heading from Indonesia to the Dutch port of Rotterdam was also seized by pirates resulting in the death of a Filipino crewmember. Reports did not clarify what caused the man’s death.
Last week, a Thai cargo ship was hijacked and a week before that, a Singapore-flagged vessel was attacked by pirates who fired a rocket-propelled grenade that landed on board but did not explode.
On July 20, pirates seized the Stella Maris, a Japanese-owned bulk carrier, and demanded a ransom from the owners. A Nigerian vessel was also reported hijacked shortly after.
Two German citizens seized from their yacht in late June were recently released after a ransom of one million dollars was paid.
Following the surge in attacks, the U.S. Naval Central Command announced it would establish a permanent Maritime Security Patrol Area in the Gulf of Aden. Coalition navy warships and aircraft will patrol the area under a commander from the Royal Canadian Navy. A warship from an international naval force has been deployed to track the three vessels and their 57 crewmembers hijacked this week.
Choong said there has been no communication so far with any of the four vessels hijacked since Tuesday, but said ships have been urged to stay more than 200 nautical miles from the Somali coast.