Monday, November 19, 2007

How to defeat Somali pirates: French navy escorts WFP Somali aid ships

France takes meaningful action on behalf of the Somali people, as set out here:
U.N. ships carrying aid to Somalia docked under French naval escort on Monday as part of a new strategy to deter pirates threatening food shipments to Somalis suffering from conflict and drought.

The shipments arrived against a background of spiraling violence in the Horn of Africa nation, where at least four people in a refugee settlement were killed when a landmine blast prompted government soldiers to open fire on Sunday.

Aid workers and witnesses in the port of Merka, 100 km (60 miles) south of the capital Mogadishu, said two ships chartered by the World Food Programme (WFP) were offloading food supplies with a French warship standing guard offshore.

"I can see two WFP ships offloading food that includes maize, beans, porridge and cooking oil. I can also see a huge warship somewhere off the coast," said witness Yusuf Mohamed.

WFP said French frigate Commandant Ducuing escorted MV Rozen and MV Semlow and their combined 3,650 tonnes of aid. The Kenyan-owned ships have, in the last three years, been seized and repeatedly attacked by pirates while carrying WFP cargoes.

"This operation comes at a critical time for the Somali people who have been devastated by some of the worst conflict and drought seen in years," WFP Executive

UPDATE: Meanwhile, possible trouble on a pirate-captured ship, as noted here:
Communication has been lost with a Comoran-flagged cargo ship captured by pirates off the Somali coast last month, raising fears of the crew safety, a maritime monitoring group said on Saturday.

The MV Al Marjan, with 22 mostly Asian crew members on board, was seized on October 19 as it sailed to Mogadishu port from the United Arab Emirates port of Dubai.

"We are worried that the ship has cut communication with the owner and the rest of the world," said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan branch of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme.

"This is the second week since it cut communication, which means there are no negotiations going. This is a very bad indicator on the fate of the crew," he told AFP.

The freighter is owned by Shahmir Maritime of Saint Vincent and Grenadines, but operated by Dubai-based Biyat International.

Mwangura explained that "cutting communication" between the pirated vessels and the outside world in the past has been an indication that "something bad" has happened onboard.

"When pirates killed a sailor in Ching Fong Hwa 168, they cut communication. That is why we are worried this time round," he said.
Mwangura said negotiations were underway to free Japanese tanker, Golden Nori -- believed to be carrying benzene -- that was kidnapped on October 28 with 23 crew members from Myanmar, Philippines and South Korea. Their condition is unknown.

The vessel was sailing from Singapore to Israel when its was seized.

"I expect that the pirates will ask for ransom of more than a million dollars to free the tanker," he told AFP.
These pirates are in the ransom business.

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