EU Naval Force: Somali pirates seize Taiwanese fishing boat in southernmost hijacking to date

Friday, October 8, 2010

Somali pirates seize Taiwanese fishing vessel

NAIROBI, Kenya — Somali pirates seized a Taiwanese fishing vessel with 14 crew onboard in the southernmost hijacking yet, the European Union Naval Force said on Friday.

The seizure of Feng Guo No 168 and the expansion of the pirates’ range could threaten vessels serving oil platforms in the Mozambique Channel.

There is one Taiwanese, three Chinese, two Indonesian and eight Vietnamese crew onboard the vessel, said EU naval spokesman Lt. Col. Per Klingvall.

The vessel’s owner first notified authorities in Mauritius on Thursday after he lost contact with the vessel and it deviated from its route, Klingvall said. A warship is on the way to observe the situation, but the attack occurred 270 miles (435 kilometers) east of Madagascar — far outside the area that the EU force patrols.

Pirates have been attacking ships coming out of the Mozambique channel’s northern end since late 2008, and mariners changed their routes to go east of the island, said Graeme Gibbon-Brooks of Dryad Maritime Intelligence. Now the pirates have adapted to that tactic as well, threatening the vessels in the Mozambique Channel.

“The oil industry involved in extraction should be concerned. This is a new risk that we haven’t seen before,” Gibbon-Brooks said. He said it was unlikely that the pirates would attack static platforms, since they are so far from their bases and they appeared more interested in hijacking than kidnapping, but that resupply vessels for the oil industry could be at risk.

The Somali pirates are holding 383 sailors hostage on 18 ships, according to the EU Naval Force. The number includes a British couple taken from their yacht.

The pirates usually demand multimillion dollar ransoms to release the ships — a fortune in war-ravaged Somalia, which has not had a functioning government for 20 years.

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