Belgian crew hijacked "doing well"

23rd April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Belgian government spoke to captain and were assured that the crew members were doing fine.

BRUSSELS - A Belgian ship seized by pirates over the weekend has dropped anchor close to the coast of Somalia and its crew is "doing well", the Belgian government said Wednesday after talking with its captain.

"This afternoon, there was contact with the captain of the Pompei. He told us that the crew was doing well. The ship is anchored close to the Somali coast," the government crisis centre said in a brief statement.

It was the first contact with the ship since it was hijacked.

The Pompei belongs to the Jan de Nul group, which specialises in building artificial islands. It had sent distress signals early Saturday and was captured about 150 kilometres north of the Seychelles.

The 65-metre (213-foot) vessel, which was bound for South Africa, transmitted two alarms in the early morning hours before contact was lost. It was the first Belgian ship to be seized by pirates.

The captain of the 1,850-tonne vessel is Dutch, and the rest of the crew comprises two Belgians, three Filipinos and four Croats.

Somali pirates attacked more than 130 merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden last year, an increase of more than 200 percent on 2007, according to the International Maritime Bureau which tracks piracy.

Heavily armed pirates operate high-powered speed boats and sometimes hold ships for weeks before releasing them for large ransoms paid by governments or ship owners.

More than 150 suspected pirates were arrested by naval patrols in the Gulf in 2008.


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