Saturday, 29 January 2011

VLCC SIRIUS STAR Released – Is the Somali Piracy Phenomenon About End? Ecoterra Updates

A piece of good news comes at last from the Horn of Africa! With VLCC SIRIUS STAR released, one of the two most pre-occupying cases of piracy off the Somali coast takes an end. Ecoterra 103rd Press Release Update is focused on the news and other related stories. The hope that MV FAINA will soon be released is rekindled.

103rd Update 2009-01-09 12h18:31 UTC

Ecoterra Intl. - Stay Calm & Solve it Peaceful & Fast !

Ecoterra International – Update & Media Release on the stand-off concerning the Ukrainian weapons-ship hi-jacked by Somali pirates and related news.

We also can make sea-piracy in Somalia an issue of the past - with empathy and strength and through coastal and marine development as well as protection!

New EA Seafarers Assistance Programme Emergency Helpline: +254-738-497979
East African Seafarers Assistance Programme - Media Officer: +254-733-385868

Day 107 - 2542 hours into the MV FAINA Crisis - Update Summary

Efforts for a peaceful release continued, but the now over three and a half months long stand-off concerning Ukrainian MV FAINA is not yet solved finally, though intensive negotiations have continued.

VLCC SIRIUS STAR has been released (see below), which leaves only MV FAINA at the central Somali coast. All good forces must now concentrate on a final and peaceful solution in the FAINA case.

Ecoterra Intl. repeats it's call to solve the FAINA case with absolute top priority and peaceful in order to avert a human and environmental disasters at the Somali coast. Anybody encouraging hot-headed and concerning such difficult situations inexperienced and untrained gunmen or those, who believe they would be capable to try an attempt of a military solution, must be held fully responsible for the surely resulting disaster. The saga and secrecy surrounding MV FAINA must not - like in the MS ESTONIA case, which is the worst naval disaster in Europe since WWII - become the shroud for its 20 seafarers.


News from other abducted or newly attacked ships --------

Games Crazy People Play: Kidnapping, Pirating, and War - Naval War-games to protect Fish-piracy and to cover the real agenda !

As we reported already last night, the Saudi supertanker is sailing to freedom. Local reports confirmed that all the captors of the Saudi supertanker are now off the ship. "All our people have now left the Sirius Star", AFP cited the leader of the pirates, Mohamed Said, as saying today in a phone interview from the pirates’ stronghold in the Somali town of Harardhere. "The ship is free, the crew is free". "There were last-minute problems but now everything has been finalised". A last minute glitch last night over a disagreement among some captors - after a ransom was received - had stopped the gigantic tanker short from sailing off and caused anxiety among close observers, who still feared that something extremely bad could happen, since the supertanker VCLL SIRIUS STAR, which is loaded with 2 million barrels of oil posed a serious threat to the whole coast. The vapor from that cargo is highly flammable and a last-minute firefight on board the tanker could have caused an explosion and a gigantic oil-spill.

Ecoterra Intl. is extremely relieved and thanks all parties for having finally solved the nightmare without the creation of a disaster, which would have effected the whole East-African coast. The capture of the Sirius Star had raised the specter of an environmental disaster, should the hijackers decide to turn the ship into a weapon or foreign navies attempt to release it by force. Sahafi Abdi Aden, speaking from the same town on Somalia's Indian Ocean coast, also confirmed the hijacking was over. "I am in Harardhere now and the issue of the Sirius Star was resolved peacefully. I cannot go into the details of the agreement but I can say that the ship is free", he said. "No member of the crew or of the pirates was hurt during this hijacking". The amount of the ransom paid for the ship's release is not yet known. Pirates had told AFP days after seizing the Sirius Star they wanted 25 million dollars (18 million euros) for its release but the latest reports indicated that the demand had been lowered to below 3.5 million US. An official representing Vela International declined to comment or be identified by name when contacted, but diplomatic sources close to the International Maritime Organization also confirmed the release. The 23 crew of the vessel incl. the Polish captain plus two Britons, however, are all safe.

Three men of Indian nationality have been kidnapped from a vessel, MV VICTORIA IV, anchored at Kiunga, 18 km from the Kenya-Somali border, reliable sources reported. The Kenya-flagged vessel, which is said to belong to Southern Engineering Company of Alpha Group in Kenya collected since November seafood products from the Somali border. Interestingly the 4 Kenyan members of the crew were left behind on the vessel. The abductors are said to be a gang of three people of Somali origin, who came during the night in a fast skiff and boarded the vessel, which after the kidnapping was left at her anchorage. Kiunga is a post of the Kenya Navy, who is said to search now for the abducted seafarers. Fishermen in Kiunga believe the three Indians must have been captured either on grounds of a deal gone sour, an old score to be settled or as an inside job with the involvement of the Kenyans. It is, however, believed that the kidnapped Indians are either still kept on the Kenyan side or taken much further than Ras Kiamboni into Somalia, since the Al-Shabaab movement, which controls Ras Kiamboni in Somalia is know to have captured and prosecuted pirates since they took over control last year. If it will be confirmed during the coming hours that the victims have been taken into Somalia, a connection to the abductors of the Chinese vessel TIAN YU 8 can not be ruled out.

With the latest captures and releases now still at least 16 foreign vessels with a total of accounted for 325 crew members (of which 92 are Filipinos) are held in Somali waters and are monitored on our actual case-list, while several other cases of ships, which were observed off the coast of Somalia and have been reported or had reportedly disappeared without trace or information, are still being followed. Over 134 incidences (including attempted attacks, averted attacks and successful sea-jackings) have been recorded for 2008 with 49 fully documented, factual sea-jacking cases (incl. the presently held). For 2009 the account stands at 11 abandoned attacks and 2 sea-jackings. Mystery pirate mother-vessels Athena/Arena and Burum Ocean as well as not fully documented cases of absconded vessels are not listed in the sea-jack count until clarification. Several other vessels with unclear fate (also not in the actual count), who were reported missing over the last ten years in this area, are still kept on our watch-list, though in some cases it is presumed that they sunk due to bad weather or being unfit to sail. In the last four years, 22 missing ships have been traced back with different names, flags and superstructures.

Directly related news -------

More than 50,000 people fleeing chaotic conditions in Somalia and neighbouring countries crossed the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden to Yemen in 2008, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday. At least 590 drowned and 359 were reported missing among the 50,091 known to have made the perilous voyage in Somalia-based smugglers' boats last year, UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said, according to REUTERS. The number of refugees was a 70 percent rise over 2007, when those making the journey with often brutal smugglers was 29,500 -- but the death toll was much higher in 2007 at 1,400, he told a news briefing. "There were again many reports of people being beaten to death during the crossings in 2008, but most of the deaths were due to drowning after passengers were forced overboard in treacherous waters far off the Yemen coast in a bid by the smugglers to avoid detection by Yemen authorities", he said. "The increase in arrivals reflects the desperate situation in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, a region scarred by civil war, political instability, famine and poverty".

The Minister for Internal security Professor George Saitoti has, according to KBC, pledged to negotiate with the new Somalia administration to ensure those abducted in November are released safely. Prof Saitoti who was speaking when the Italian Special envoy Ms Margherita Bohiver paid him a courtesy call, promised to do everything possible to see to it that the two Italian nuns along with 94 humanitarian workers abducted are rescued. Ms Bohiver urged the Kenyan government to act fast to rescue the nuns abducted along the Somali border two months. Bohiver said the government had the expertise and the capacity to have not only the nuns but all the 96 persons abducted together with the two Italians saved from the abductors in the neighbouring Somalia. The two were abducted on November 10 last year along the border in Mandera district where they had worked for years assisting the poor in Northern Kenya under the Catholic Church Mission. Bohiver also called for fast reconstruction of the war-torn country as a key measure to restore peace within the Horn of Africa region that has of late witnessed increased cases of insecurity raging from abductions to sea piracy.

The envoy said it was every country's responsibility to participate fully in the war against the criminals especially in the Gulf of Aden, which has been taken over by Somali pirates. Last year, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for the release of the two nuns and prayed for the many victims of political abductions in global trouble spots. The pope made his plea at the Vatican, where he addressed pilgrims from his apartment window overlooking St. Peter's Square. The pope said that at Christmastime he wanted the kidnapped nuns to feel his spiritual closeness and that of the whole church. Sister Caterina Giraudo, 67, and Sister Maria Teresa Oliviero, 61, were seized by armed men Nov. 10 in northeastern Kenya near the border with Somalia. "May the Lord, who was born to grant us the gift of his love, touch the hearts of the kidnappers and allow our sisters to be freed as soon as possible, so they can resume their unselfish service to the poorest brethren", he said. The kidnapped nuns are members of the Contemplative Missionary Movement of Father Charles de Foucauld, an order of men and women religious who live in small communities in the midst of slums, refugee camps and other areas of great poverty.

Japanese doctor Keiko Akahane, 32, and Dutchman Willem Sools, 27, are at a safe location following their release Wednesday, January 7. "They are in very good health", Jean-Luc Lambert, the group's Nairobi-based head of mission. In The Hague, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen welcomed the release and was "happy for Mr. Sools, who works as a nurse, and his family that they can close this difficult period", according to his ministry. The two were engaged in medical assistance activities as members of the Paris-based nongovernmental group, Medicins du Monde (MDM). The two aid workers were seized on Sept. 22 in Ethiopia's eastern border region of Ogaden, where ethnic Somalis have been fighting for more than five decades for greater autonomy or independence. Somalia did not regain control of the oil- and gas-rich region Ogaden from Ethiopia in the 1977 Ogaden war. Ogaden - the size of Britain and home to around 4 million people of mostly Somali ethnicity - has suffered severe food shortages due to recurrent droughts and the ethnic Somali rebellions since the Somali independence in 1960. Ethiopia presently restricts humanitarian agencies, journalists and human rights monitors in the area, saying it cannot guarantee their security.

Ethiopian forces stepped up operations in the region after the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front attacked a Chinese-run oil exploration field in April 2007, killing 74 people. The rebels demanded that Ethiopia to release Somalis arrested in the region. If such deal was part of the release has not been revealed. The workers later were taken by their captors to the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The negotiations for the release were led by the international humanitarian organization Medecins Du Monde (MDM). The Japanese government refused to take part in the negotiations. "The criminal group was demanding a ransom", a senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan said. "The government's direct engagement in the negotiation could have allowed the group to gain an advantage. "MDM lists leading figures from many countries as its senior officials, and has a strong network of contacts", he continued. "The Japanese government had no other choice but to defer to MDM (on the issue)". The Japanese Ambassador to Kenya confirmed Akahane's safety at around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. An official announcement of her release came at 6 a.m. the next day. Medecins Du Monde was founded in 1980 by Bernard Kouchner, the current French minister of foreign and European affairs.
  By Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis
Published: 1/10/2009