x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Pirates who hijacked UAE ship 'may need repairs'

Somali pirates who hijacked the UAE-based MV Leila cargo ship may have wanted help repairing their own vessel, shipping company employee says.

DUBAI // Somali pirates who hijacked the MV Leila cargo vessel last week may have wanted help repairing their own ship, said an employee of the Dubai-based shipowner.

It is hoped the pirates will then free the vessel because the cargo owner is also Somali and can negotiate with them, said Tariq, the cargo clearing clerk for the New Port Cargo and Shipping Company.

The ship captain has stayed in contact by satellite phone and the 15-man crew from India, Pakistan and Somalia remain unharmed, he said.

“The crew are all OK. They are safe. They are speaking on the telephone,” Tarik said. “Maybe the Somalis themselves, they can solve this problem.”

The dozen or so pirates who boarded last week 50 nautical miles off the coast of Oman are “demanding some repairs for their vessel, some spare parts”, he said. “Their boat is also along with them. Maybe they will repair it and go back.”

It was unclear if the ship is currently headed toward its destination, the Somali port town of Berbera, or toward Bossaso, where the pirates are believed to come from, he said. The cargo included foodstuffs, vehicles, building materials and other goods.

The MV Leila, one of two ships owned by New Port, had made deliveries to Somalia for nine years and never been hijacked, Tarik said.

Last July, the Sharjah-based owner of a small oil tanker said pirates released it without a ransom after the Somali cargo owners pressed local tribal leaders and government officials to intervene. In 2010 the MV Leila remained stuck in Berbera port for months pending a legal dispute between the shipowner and local businessmen.

A second ship owned by a UAE-based firm, the MV Savina-Fahad, is also said to have been hijacked this week. According to the Somalia Report, which cites an unnamed businessman in Dubai and a Somali “pirate source”, the vessel was seized in the Indian Ocean while carrying charcoal from the Somali town of Kismaayo.

The multinational counterpiracy force EU Navfor said it could not verify the news of the MV Savina-Fahad, but that the MV Leila had been confirmed as pirated last Friday. Six other ships and 191 other seafarers remain in captivity, EU Navfor said in a Tuesday update.

Two of the three longest-held ships are owned by UAE firms: the MV Iceberg I was hijacked in March 2010 and the MV Orna in November that year. The third ship, the Malaysian-owned MV Albedo, left from Dubai before being seized in November 2010. The daughter of the captain lives in the emirate.