Ports & Ships Maritime News

Nov 18, 2008
Author: P&S

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  • First View – KOTA NALURI

  • Odjfell re-routes its ships round the Cape

  • British quandary over captured pirates

  • Supertanker SIRIUS STAR taken by Somali pirates

  • IRISL chairman says US sanctions have little effect

  • Russia considers naval base at Benghazi

  • Pic of the day – BOW PIONEER


    First View – KOTA NALURI

    Making her maiden voyage to Cape Town at the recent weekend was the Pacific International Lines (PIL) container vessel KOTA NALURI (20,902gt), which has a 1,810-TEU capacity. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    Odjfell re-routes its ships round the Cape

    Piracy off the Horn of Africa dominated world news last night and we make no apology for the topic taking over much of this edition of PORTS & SHIPS Maritime News.

    It’s a measure of the lack of confidence that ship owners and operators now have in naval policing of international waters that several have taken the decision to re-route their ships around the Cape of Good Hope rather than risk passage past the Somali coast.

    The latest company to send their ships on the longer southerly route is Norwegian tanker company Odjfell, which says it is frustrated by the limited interest being shown by governments and authorities in what is a very serious problem.

    As a result Odjfell ships have been instructed to go via the Cape until such time as there is “sufficient protection” for ships sailing through the Gulf of Aden.

    Last week PORTS & SHIPS reported that Svitzer had already taken the step of re-routing its vessels via the Cape – recently two newbuild tugs called at Cape Town to refuel while on their delivery voyages.

    Odjfell’s announcement comes shortly ahead of the seizure of a VLCC, the SIRIUS STAR further south than expected (see report below), a single event that has the ability to galvanise a more meaningful response from world governments than many previous pirate attacks.

    The decision also coincides with the release of fellow Norwegian company’s time-chartered vessel STOLT VALOR, which was seized on 16 September with a crew of 22. Most of the crew were Indian while the others included two Filipinos, a Bangladeshi and a Russian.

    According to regional sources a ransom of USD1.1 million was paid for the release of the ship and crew. The initial demand was said to be for USD6 million.

    British quandary over captured pirates

    What happens to a Somali pirate when he is captured by international naval forces operating off Somalia?

    That’s the quandary facing the UK’s Foreign Office after a detachment of Royal Marines took eight Somali nationals prisoner after a firefight last week. The Somali’s were on board a dhow that attacked a Danish ship in the Gulf of Aden but was beaten off when the marines, operating with the frigate HMS CUMBERLAND, arrived on the scene in small boats.

    Two of the 17 people on the dhow were killed in the firefight. Another eight turned out to be Yemeni citizens and the rightful occupants, who had been captured themselves, while the remaining eight are believed to be pirates and who were taken into custody, initially on board the Cumberland but later transferred to the Royal Navy Auxiliary ship WAVE KNIGHT, which is where they remain at present.

    One of the Yemeni seamen was injured in the incident and has since died from his injuries while the remaining seven have sailed their dhow back to Yemen. Now the British authorities appear to be wanting to land the captured pirates in a nearby country rather than take the men to the UK for trial under the Piracy Act of 1837, portions of which remain in force.

    The matter is another example of how unprepared the various seafaring nations are to deal with modern day piracy.

    Supertanker SIRIUS STAR taken by Somali pirates

    In a significant escalation of piracy in the seas off the north-eastern tip of Africa, pirates operating from Somalia have attacked and seized a very large crude carrier (VLCC), the 319,430-DWT Liberian-flagged, Saudi-owned supertanker SIRIUS STAR, some 450 n.miles southeast of Mombasa in Kenya.

    The tanker is carrying a crew of 25 from Croatia, Great Britain, The Philippines, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

    Observers believe the latest attack so far south is an indication of how the pirates are able to switch their activities at short notice away from areas that are becoming too ‘hot’ for them to operate, such as the Gulf of Aden. In the past week several ships have come under attack off the Kenya coast including a Chinese fishing vessel, the TIANYU 8 that was taken into Somali waters after being boarded by pirates.

    According to the US Department of Defense in Washington these attacks come amid a decrease in the rate of successful pirate attacks on merchant vessels off the coast of Somalia.

    “Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) data analysis has shown that the combination of both military and civilian involvement in the area has reduced the percentage of successful piracy attacks from 53% in August, to 31% in October,” the department said in a statement yesterday.

    “Our presence in the region is helping deter and disrupt criminal attacks off the Somali coast, but the situation with the Sirius Star clearly indicates the pirates’ ability to adapt their tactics and methods of attack,” said Vice Adm Bill Gortney, Commander, Combined Maritime Forces.

    “Piracy is an international crime that threatens global commerce. Shipping companies have to understand that naval forces cannot be everywhere. Self protection measures are the best way to protect their vessels, their crews, and their cargo.”

    The US Defense Department says that out of 15 recent pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden, at least 10 involved ships operating outside the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) recommended traffic corridor or failing to employ recommended self protection measures, making them more vulnerable to a successful attack.

    “Most notably, none of the vessels had embarked security teams. Embarked security teams would have prevented these successful attacks,” maintains Gortney.

    “Companies don’t think twice about using security guards to protect their valuable facilities ashore. Protecting valuable ships and their crews at sea is no different.”

    The Defense Department points out that the area involved off the coast of Somalia and Kenya as well as the Gulf of Aden equals more than 1.1 million square miles, which is roughly four times the size of the US state of Texas or the size of the Mediterranean and Red Seas combined.

    In August the Combined Maritime Forces operating in the area directed the establishment of a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA), a moveable area overlaying the IMO’s recommended traffic corridor.

    Merchant mariners have been actively encouraged to travel through the IMO-designated traffic corridor and employ reasonable self-protection measures to deter piracy attempts.

    It appears the Sirius Star was seized by pirates at about 07h20on Saturday (15 November). There is some dispute where the attack took place – the combined naval forces in the region are reporting it was 450 n.miles southeast of Mombasa while the International Maritime Bureau, which monitors pirate attacks worldwide, maintains it was 450 n.miles southeast of Mogadishu.

    According to a US Navy 5th Fleet spokesman, Lt Nathan Christensen, the ship is being taken to an anchorage off the Somali port of Eyl, where a number of ships are being held for ransom. Christensen could not say how much crude was on the vessel.

    Meanwhile it’s been confirmed that another tanker, the products tanker CHEMSTAR VENUS (11,951-gt) has also been seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The Japanese vessel has a crew of 23 including five Koreans and 18 Filipinos and was carrying a mixed cargo of chemical and oil products.

    IRISL chairman says US sanctions have little effect

    The chairman of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), Mohammed Hussein Dajmar says US sanctions against IRISL is having little real effect and he is more concerned by a slowdown in the world economy.

    The sanctions imposed on IRISL vessels to limit the amount of trade the company can conduct was largely meaningless, he intimated, saying that IRISL does little business with the US or its shipping sector.

    He pointed out that the company did business with Europe and Asia and has experienced no problems related to the US punitive measures.

    According to the US IRISL is guilty of providing logistical support to Iran’s military and of falsifying shipping documents to hide the true nature of cargo carried. In terms of the sanctions US citizens are prohibited from conducting business with IRISL.

    IRISL vessels have the capacity to carry about half of Iran’s annual imports and exports.

    Russia considers naval base at Benghazi

    Russia is reported to be giving consideration to an offer by Libya’s leader, Colonel Mummar el-Qaddafi to establish a Russian Navy base at the Mediterranean port of Benghazi.

    This emerged from the recent visit by the Libyan leader to Moscow where he met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Russian naval officials were said to be receptive to the proposal. Sources said this would help expand the operational reach of the Russian Navy.

    In the past the Soviet Union enjoyed access to Libya’s naval facilities and also had air stations within the North African country. The latest action by Libya’s maverick leader appears to have taken the US by surprise given that Libya agreed to give up a secret weapon programme in 2003 and has since attempted to mend ties with the West.

    Russian naval ships docked in Benghazi recently en route to Venezuela for joint naval exercises with the South American country.

    Pic of the day – BOW PIONEER

    One of Odfjell’s tankers, the BOW PIONEER, seen here off Durban. The Norwegian company has taken the decision to re-route its ships round the Cape to avoid possible pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden region. See report above. Picture Terry Hutson

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