Somali pirates seize two European tankers, Seychelles yacht

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pirates in Somalia have seized two European tankers within twenty-four hours. In the same time frame three other vessels escaped and a yacht which disappeared after departing the Seychelles has been reported as hijacked.

Yesterday MV Nipayia, a 9,000-ton tanker owned by Athens, Greece-based Lotus Shipping and flagged in Panama, was seized. The vessel has eighteen crew members from the Philippines and a captain from Russia. She was hijacked 380 miles from Hobyo.

Early today the MV Bow Asir, a 23,000-ton oil and chemicals tanker, was also seized in the same area, a 750,000 square mile ocean expanse near the Gulf of Aden. The vessel is owned by the Isle of Man's Star Tankers and is managed by Norwegian firm Salhus Shipping. There are conflicting crew numbers of 23 or 27 crew on board, but it is known that five of these are Polish and the captain is Russian.

Salhus was alerted at 0729GMT by the Bahamas-flagged ship that two small boats were chasing the vessel; at 0745GMT another message said they had boarded and three hours later an email confirmed the ship had been seized. There are sixteen to eighteen pirates on board, armed with machine guns.

The Seychelles' state broadcaster reported yesterday that a small yacht from the islands is thought to have been seized. The Serenity, with two people from the Seychelles on board, departed the nation on February 28 and headed into the Indian Ocean. The ship never arrived at her destination of Madagascar. Nothing has been heard from the ship since she left port.

Three other ships were also targeted in two separate failed attacks yesterday. At 0907GMT MV Explorer III and MV Ocean Explorer stated that two small boats were chasing them. The ships were able to outrun the pirates. Later, at 2055GMT, the MV FD Gennaro Aurilia increased speed after a fishing boat began to approach. The master radioed nearby warships for help, after which the boat turned off its light and retreated.