Somalia: July 20, 2002

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The 14,921-ton Cyprus flag bulk carrier "Panagia Tinou" was seized by boarders one mile off the Somali coast on 15 June. The ship was reportedly in position at 11 45N, 050 30E, southwest of Cape Alula, having anchored close inshore while the crew repaired engine damage. The ship had been enroute from the Black Sea to the Indian port of Vishakapatnam with a cargo of 21,000 tons of fertilizer, having passed southbound out of the Suez Canal on 8 June.

Mr John Stathakis, a spokesman for Samios Shipping Company, said the pirates approached the anchored vessel in a fast boat at 0930 UTC and attacked the ship with machine gun fire, before boarding and forcing the 23 Filipino crewmen into the mess room. Claiming to represent a Somali military authority, the leader of the gang demanded that all passports be handed over. The 20 or so pirates then installed a .50 caliber machinegun on the hijacked ship to guard it against attacks from other gangs or prevent rescue vessels from approaching. The pirates also stole cash from the ship and crew, as well as light equipment like walkie-talkies. Samios Shipping Company was losing $6,700 each day the vessel was delayed.

German and Spanish warships were soon keeping an eye on the captured ship, which lay inside of Somali territorial waters. After the ransom was handed over, on 4 July helicopters from the "Emden" ensured that the ship did not fall into the hand of other "freelancers." Commander Helmut Zimmerman (of the German Naval Air Wing Detachment in Mombasa) told the press that three German naval vessels helped in freeing the vessel without military intervention, securing the area near the hijacked vessel to ensure no harm was done to the crew and the cargo remained undisturbed. 

Commander Zimmerman told the Kenyan press on 17 July that the presence of coalition forces in the Gulf of Aden and east of the Somali coast had helped to reduce piracy. In 2001, there were a total of 26 cases of hijacking along the Somali coast but the "Panagia Tinou" case was only the third since the beginning of 2002.

On a related note, the German Navy frigate "Brandenburg" left Wilhelmshaven port for the Horn of Africa on 24 June, replacing the frigate "Bayern" as part of the anti-terror operation "Enduring Freedom." The "Brandenburg" is to be under the command of the head of the multinational task force, Rear Admiral Gottfried Hoch and would be the command vessel and operations headquarters. The ship and it's crew of 230 was expected to reach its area of operation after a three week cruise. - Adam Geibel 


 

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