Somalia: August 20, 2002

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The murky vacuum of lawlessness in Somalia continues to affect international shipping. An anonymous local businessman claimed that 15 gunmen in three speedboats seized a British-registered vessel off northeastern Somalia on 30 July. The vessel had been foundering in a storm off the village of Bareda near Bossaso (on the Gulf of Aden). Sources in Puntland claim that as many as 100 gunmen later boarded the vessel, whose crew and captain were originally reported to be from the Ukraine. Others claimed it was a British-registered oil tanker with six Russian crewmen.

The ship was then anchored 1.7 nautical miles (about 3km) off the coast and one resident reported that the ship's captain was held under guard by a 16-strong militia gang on the 9th. The core group of 30 pirates belong to the Sibaq Roon sub-clan of the larger Majerteen clan.

The British frigate HMS Cumberland put up a helicopter to have a look, but was unable to corroborate the reports - possibly because the pirates split into small groups and sent to a number of different locations. 

The vessel (capable of 11 knots) had been heading from Dubai to Durban, South Africa when the Somali gunmen boarded it. By 13 August, reports indicated that the oil tanker was North Korean-registered and Greek-owned. The Jenlil, built in February 1971 by J.J. Sietas Kg Schiffswerft GmbH & Co., went through several prior name changes and was sailing to India from Greece with a Georgian crew.

On the 15th, the Georgian Maritime Shipping Administration refused to assume responsibility for the six seamen who shipped out at the request of the owner of the Jenlil, as well as its captain (a resident of the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti). The crew failed to sign the appropriate contracts and register at a Georgian Maritime Shipping Company shipping branch. 

The hijackers reportedly kept raising the ransom (from US $300,000 to $600,000 to $1,000,000) but communications with the gang was problematic and negotiations slow. Greek lawyers are currently negotiating with the pirates.

The allied fleet off Somalia is not allowed within 12 miles of shore, unless it's essentially in "hot pursuit". Meanwhile, a new contingent of German Naval pilots and aviation mechanics arrived in Kenya on the 16th to replace crews due to be rotated out. - Adam Geibel

 

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