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          International efforts free hijacked ship from armed siege

          • Ras Kalula, 05 July 2002

          ICC's International Maritime Bureau has helped free a ship and its crew from a gang of 25 heavily armed pirates in Somali waters where they had been held captive for three weeks. The Panagia Tinou was able to continue on course for India with her multi-million dollar cargo of fertilizers.

          Ships anchoring near the Somali coast are in danger of being seized by one of the warring factions ashore

          An emergency call to the IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur sparked negotiations that led to the eventual release of the hostages.

          IMB provided support and advice to the parties involved in the operation. The bureau's Director, Captain Pottengal Mukundan, said international cooperation played a vital part in the Panagia Tinou's rescue.

          He said: "We are grateful for the support of German warships in the region. A German warship was standing by throughout the whole incident and escorted the rescued ship safely out of Somali waters."

          Negotiations with the kidnap gang were conducted by specialists appointed by the underwriters of the vessel.

          The vessel had been taking its 21,000-ton cargo from the Black Sea to the Indian port of Vishakapatnam when engine trouble forced it to anchor just off the coast of Northern Somalia.

          "Next day at noon time there was an attack from the pirates," said John Stathakis of the Samios Shipping Company, which manages the Panagia Tinou. "They attacked with machine guns and the crew were very scared."

          Pirates approached the anchored vessel in a fast boat and forced the 23-strong Filipino crew into the mess room, where they were kept hostage. Claiming to represent a Somali military authority, the leader of the gang demanded that all passports be handed over.

          IMB says the pirates installed a 50 mm gun on the hijacked ship to guard it against attacks from other gangs or prevent rescue vessels from approaching. They stole cash from the ship and crew, and light equipment including hand-held walkie-talkies. Each day of delay to the vessel caused US$ 6,700 of unrecoverable loss.

          "These are dangerous criminals, crooks. They cause millions of dollars of loss. These gangs are a liability to the international community," said Mr Stathakis. "The fortunate thing is that the crew were unharmed."

          The IMB piracy centre warns international shipping that ships anchoring near the Somali coast are in danger of being seized by one of the warring factions ashore.

          Ships are advised to maintain anti-piracy watches and report all pirate attacks and suspicious movements of craft to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

          The IMB Piracy Centre is based in Kuala Lumpur. It posts a weekly world piracy status report on this website www.icc-ccs.org. The Piracy Centre is financed by voluntary contributions from shipping companies and Protection & Indemnity associations.

          IMB is part of Commercial Crime Services, a division of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce.

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