x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Hijacked ship and crew safe again in Mina Zayed

The pirates who tried to hijack a UAE ship have been arrested and will be prosecuted in the UAE.

The US Fifth Fleet identified the location of the MV Arrilah-I and offered logistical support. Courtesy of UAE Armed Forces
The US Fifth Fleet identified the location of the MV Arrilah-I and offered logistical support. Courtesy of UAE Armed Forces

The Armed Forces said yesterday that 10 pirates hijacked the MV Arrilah-I last Friday and tried to change the route, but the vessel maintained the original course from Australia to Jebel Ali, loaded with aluminium.

The ship was hijacked east of Oman, in the Arabian Sea.

The pirates burnt parts of the ship in an attempt to force out the crew from their hiding quarters in the safe room, or citadel, before special UAE counter-terrorism forces liberated the ship, with support from the Air Force and Air Defence, as well as logistical support from the US Fifth Fleet, which was present in the Arabian Sea.

"We emphasise the UAE's intent to deal strictly with such operations and that we do not succumb to such threats," said Lt Col Abdullah al Dhaheri, of the Armed Forces. He said the pirates had attempted to frighten and suffocate the crew into submission using hand grenades, firing their weapons randomly and burning the ship's generators.

The Armed Forces said the ship docked last night at Mina Zayed in Abu Dhabi with the full crew and 10 pirates on board, guarded by the Special Forces, who had placed the pirates under arrest after taking control of the ship. They will be handed over to the Interior Ministry to "prepare for sending them to trial", a statement said.

Some nations such as Seychelles and Kenya have taken initial steps to prosecute pirates. In the UAE, prosecution of the pirates will probably be taken up by the federal court system.

The US Fifth Fleet informed Emirati authorities of the hijacking, according to the military. The General Headquarters of the Armed Forces issued the order to rescue the ship. Special counter-terrorism forces from the UAE began boarding the ship at 6.10pm on Saturday after the military approved the plan.

The military said the US Fifth Fleet identified the location of the ship and offered logistical support.

The pirates surrendered as the UAE forces boarded the ship.

Lt Col al Dhaheri said the operation was conducted with no casualties or loss of equipment. "The boarding operation conducted by the Armed Forces was done with the utmost professionalism, precision and speed, and without losses in lives or equipment because of the high training and preparation for the Special Forces and what it possesses in high-level abilities in facing marine piracy operations," he said.

Ali Obaid al Yabhouni, the general manager of the Abu Dhabi National Tanker Company and the National Gas Shipping Company, last night expressed his relief and gratitude towards the Armed Forces.

"The incident has tested the tenacity of our preparedness for such a high emergency situation," he said, adding that the ship arrived in Mina Zayed "with the entire crew on board safe, in good health and high spirits".

hdajani@thenational.ae

kshaheen@thenational.ae