ABU DHABI // Questions remain about the fate of a UAE-owned shipping vessel and its crew following a reported pirate attack earlier this month.
The hijacking happened north of the Seychelles archipelago on New Year's Day, though it is not clear whether the tug and its crew were seized, or if pirates only managed to commandeer the barge it was towing. The ship is owned by Dubai-based Folk Shipping LLC.
Ecoterra International, a Kenya-based, non-governmental organisation that monitors piracy, said the vessel was carrying generators when pirates fired upon it and overtook it 670 nautical miles east of Hobyo, Somalia.
The pirates used MT York, a Singapore-flagged gas tanker that was hijacked in October, to seize the UAE ship Tiba Folk, Ecoterra said.
The group is now questioning the fate of the ship's crew and armed security guards, saying there are mixed reports regarding the release or capture of those on board.
EU Navfor, an EU anti-piracy mission operating in Somalia, said the vessel released the barge it was towing during the attack to increase speed, allowing it to escape. The Somalian pirates then towed the stranded barge back to shore.
"The ship and the crew escaped safely," said Paddy O'Kennedy, spokesman for EU Navfor.
International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB-PRC), a non-government organisation sponsored by the shipping industry in Malaysia, also said the ship was hijacked but the crew managed to escape. It could not confirm whether pirates had seized the barge.
Folk Shipping did not respond to requests for comment.
There have been 14 attacks and two hijackings on vessels near Somalia this year, according to IMB-PRC. Pirates had taken 41 hostages in those attacks, the centre said.
The pirates are currently holding 680 hostages and 30 vessels, three of which are UAE-owned or managed.