Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Crew member shot as pirates attack vessel

By GITONGA MARETE

Despite international allied forces’ presence in the Indian Ocean, piracy activities have continued, with one crew member reported to have been shot in the head by pirates towards the end of last week.

East Africa Seafarers Assistance Programme coordinator Andrew Mwangura said that the North Korean vessel, Mv Chong Chon Gang was attacked 400 nautical miles off the Somali/Kenya border.

“The vessel was attacked by pirates sailing in a small skiff launched from a mother ship. They fired rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons in an attempt to force the vessel to stop,” Mwangura said.

”The captain took evasive maneouvres including altering its course, increasing speed and activating the vessel’s fire hose and was able to escape though it suffered damages,” he said, adding that the injured crew member was reportedly out of danger.

Since pirates increased their activities in the Indian Ocean over the past two years, the international community has deployed war ships in the Gulf of Aden and within Somali waters to deal with the problem.

After hijacking a ship with its crew, pirates demand a ransom before release, which ship owners have in the past paid spawning a thriving business for the war torn Somalia warlords.

The British, American and German Navy have so far handed over a total of 24 suspects since December last year to Kenyan police and are being tried for the crime in Mombasa.

Nine others who were last year convicted for the offence and are serving a seven-year jail term have appealed against the sentence.

At the same time, Mr Mwangura said a multi-national crew of Chinese, Filipinos, Vietnamese and Kenyans were being detained aboard a fishing boat at the port of Dar-es-salaam for allegedly engaging in illegal fishing in Tanzanian territorial waters.