Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fighting Pirates

North Korean ship fights off Somali pirates
(philstar.com) Updated September 15, 2009 08:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR (AP) - Somali pirates tried but failed to hijack a North Korean cargo ship when crew members fought back with improvised fire bombs and sped away, a maritime official said today.

Separately, other Somali pirates released a Greek-managed ship with 22 Filipino crewmen after five months in captivity, officials in the Philippines said.

The North Korean ship was adrift off the Somali coast near Mogadishu on Sept. 5 for engine work when the crew saw 10 pirates approaching in two speedboats, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.

The North Korean ship immediately started its engine and moved away, and the captain called the bureau for help when the pirates - dressed in military clothing - began firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, Choong said.
The crew fought back with improvised molotov cocktails - bottles filled with kerosene or similar fluid and set alight by a wick or rag. The crew also fired distress rocket flares at the pirates, and the ship escaped "after the captain increased speed," Choong said.

The captain later told the IMB a US warship arrived at the scene, but the pirates had fled, Choong added. He could not confirm it was a US ship.

One of the 30 North Korean crew members was injured, and the ship was damaged, Choong said. The ship was heading to the Middle East when it was attacked. It was not clear where the ship went.

The incident raised the number of attacks off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden this year to 156. So far, 32 ships have been hijacked and five remain held by pirates along with 102 crew members, Choong said

It was not immediately clear if the five ships still in custody are in addition to the Greek- managed ship that was reported by the Philippine government to have been released.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Tuesday the information came
from Bright Maritime Corp., the local manning company of the St.-Vincent and
Grenadines-flagged bulk carrier. It was not immediately known when the ship and crew were released.
The ship was headed to India from Jordan when it was seized April 14.

The Philippines supplies about 30 percent of the world's 1.2 million merchant sailors.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 - a power vacuum that has allowed the pirates to operate freely around Somalia's 1,900-mile (3,060-kilometer) east African coastline, along one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
The US government last week warned of an increase in piracy off Africa's east coast because the monsoon has ended and Somali pirates will have easier access to passing ships.