The MV Semlow, hijacked by pirates off the Somali coast, appears to have been released, along with its cargo. Reuters reports that the ship is now “bound for a safe port under friendly guard”. Seized in June, the Semlow was carrying 850 tons of rice – famine aid for communities affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami. (I posted in some detail about the situation a few weeks ago.) Actual accounts of what happened are spotty and scarce (as is almost all information from southern Somalia), but it looks like the pirates – who had used the Semlow to seize an Egyptian vessel (the Ibnu Batuta) carrying cement – ran out of gas, and were forced to use the Egyptian vessel to tow the Semlow to port in Elmaan.
Given that the pirates had asked for $500,000 for the ship and cargo, it seems unlikely that they gave up the vessel without some compensation from the Motaku Shipping Agency, which owns the vessel and leased it to the World Food Programme. WFP insists that no money was paid to the pirates, and is worried that Motaku has traded the cargo for the release of the ship – WFP has been running newspaper ads warning that selling stolen grain is a violation of international law. I’m sure that will be an effective deterrent in a country that lacks central government and effective law enforcement…
No official word on the situation from WFP since a September 28th press release. It will be interesting to see how the release of the Semlow is explained by the WFP, which is understandably loath to see anyone paying ransoms for the release of hijacked vessels, for fear that hijacking foodaid will become a new growth business for pirates.
I wonder how many people died of hunger due to a lack of food and medical care in Somalia after the Tsunami of December 2004 hit? This wasn’t an act of piracy, this was an act of multiple murder by the so-called Somali pirates against their own people.
Makes you wonder what the international military troops over in Djibouti and up and down the Red Sea are doing? I thought this was supposed to be their patrol territory in order to stop acts of international terrorism. What are they doing, escorting and protecting oil and LNG tankers and ingnoring everything else on the Red Sea?
Here is a link to the Mariner Warning Info bulletin from the USN’s Office of Naval Intelligence dated September 21, 2005. Somalia and several other coastal countries around the globe are in there. Piracy and murder on the 7 seas of the world is on the rise, big time.
Checkout Item 3.J. under the the section of the USN-ONI report titled “This Week’s Highlights”. Here’s the text:
J. PERSIAN GULF:
1. LPG tanker boarded, robbed 27 Aug, Khawr Abd Allah, Iraq.
LPG!! Like in liquified propane and butane?? Aach Du Schei–e! Robbed of what? Hopefully not the cargo. Isn’t LPG highly explosive?
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