x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Somali pirates hijack another UAE-based ship

A tanker owned by a Sharjah firm has been hijacked off the coast of Somalia.

DUBAI // Somali pirates were yesterday holding a UAE tanker with its 16 crew and 3,500 tonnes of oil worth Dh17 million.

The MV Jubba XX was hijacked on Saturday in the Indian Ocean en route from Umm al Qaiwain to Berbera in Somaliland, the autonomous northern region of Somalia.

On board were the captain, from Sri Lanka, with five crewmen from India, four from Somalia, three from Bangladesh and one each from Kenya, Myanmar and Sudan.

The 4,800-tonne vessel’s owners, Jubba General Trading of Sharjah, and its managers, Emirates Shipping Company in Umm al Qaiwain, have not been able to make contact with the ship since it was hijacked.

“We called all day and got no response,” Omar Alkheir, the general manager of Emirates Shipping, said yesterday.

The tanker left Umm al Qaiwain three weeks ago and was travelling on its regular route.

It had not registered with the Maritime Security Centre-Horn of Africa, the counter-piracy unit of the EU Naval Force (Eu Navfor) that tracks the whereabouts of commercial vessels.

A maritime patrol aircraft sighted the tanker on Sunday morning about 100 nautical miles northwest of Socotra Island, heading towards the northern Somali coast. Nine pirates are believed to be on board, EU Navfor said.

The MV Jubba XX is the first Jubba General Trading ship to be hijacked, the company’s managing director Abdi Ali Farah said. The firm has nine employees and owns two oil tankers and three cargo vessels, which usually travel to the Somali ports of Mogadishu, Bossaso and Berbera.

So far this year Somali pirates have hijacked 21 ships and taken 362 hostages. They currently hold 23 ships and 439 hostages, according to the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre.

Including the MV Jubba XX, three of the hijacked ships are owned by UAE companies and two were travelling from the UAE. About 100 crew members from these vessels are being held hostage.

The MV Iceberg I, owned by the Dubai company Azal Shipping, is the longest-held hijacked vessels. Since it was seized in March 2010, two of its 24 crewmen have been reported dead.

The Pakistani rights activist Ansar Burney has said he will visit Dubai on Friday to try to meet the owners of the MV Iceberg I and help to secure its release.

His organisation recently helped to raise the Dh7.7 million ransom to release another ship held by Somali pirates, the MV Suez.

Meanwhile confusion surrounded another UAE ship with a cargo goats said by the news outlet Somalia Report to have been seized last Thursday and released on Sunday.

The vessel was hijacked 35 miles outside the port of Bossaso in Puntland, from where it had set sail, said Abdi Samatar, general director of the Puntland ministry for maritime transports, ports and counter-piracy.

Three days later it was freed and is now on its way to Dubai, the vice minister Mohamed Isse Lacle told Somalia Report.

The exact name of the ship is uncertain, and it does not appear to be registered with the UN International Maritime Organisation, as most vessels are, the Somalia Report editor Michael Logan said. Reports have listed it as the MV Al Nasri, MV Al Nisar, MV Al Nasir and MV Al Isham.

The Somalia report said the shipowner was in the UAE, but the Kenya-based piracy monitoring group Ecoterra said it was Indian-owned.

No vessel carrying goats from Bossaso is expected in the coming days in Hamriya Port in Dubai or in the ports of Umm al Qaiwain or Ajman, employees said.

chuang@thenational.ae