Pirates seize two ships in Indian Ocean

24th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Pirates seized a Greek-owned tanker with a German skipper and a cargo vessel chartered by a German company in the Indian Ocean, officials and the Bremen-based company said on Sunday.

The Singapore-flagged York, a 5,076-tonne tanker en route for the Seychelles, is carrying 17 crew, including a German master, two Ukrainians and 14 Filipinos, European naval forces in Brussels said in a statement.

It was attacked around 50 nautical miles east of the Kenyan port of Mombasa and initially drifted before moving at around 10 knots from Sunday morning, the EU mission said.

The crew are believed to be in good health, a source at the ship's operating company, Athens-based Interunity Management Corporation, told AFP.

"We have not spoken to the crew but we believe they are in good health," the company representative said.

In a separate statement, the company said the ship had issued a distress signal whilst sailing between Mombasa and the Seychelles island of Mahe.

"We understand that the pirates have control of the vessel and it is sailing towards the Somali coast. No contact has yet been made with the vessel," the company statement said.

"The company is working to bring this incident to a safe resolution for the crew and vessel," it said.

The Greek coastguard said the ship carries 150 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

"The authorities of Singapore are handling the case as they are the flag state and there are no Greeks on board," a coastguard spokeswoman said.

A Turkish warship confirmed the seizure Sunday after being dispatched to investigate after an attack on the York by two skiffs the previous day in the Somali basin, not long after it sailed out of Mombasa, the EU mission said in a statement.

The Turkish vessel TCG Gaziantep, operating under the Combined Maritime Forces, launched a helicopter to investigate.

"The helicopter was able to observe pirates with weapons on board the vessel," the statement said.

The EU mission said that in "a separate but seemingly linked incident" a fishing vessel, the Golden Wave, that was attacked by pirates on October 9, was seen in the vicinity of the tanker.

Bremen-based Beluga shipping company meanwhile said one of its chartered cargo ships had been captured by pirates in the Indian Ocean.

The South Africa-bound ship was carrying heavy packages from the United Arab Emirates to Richards Bay, a company statement issued in the northern German port said, but did not give details about the number of staff or their nationality.

"We received a distress call this Sunday at 7:08 am (0508 GMT) from our cargo Beluga Fortune," said the statement. "We can now confirm that this was an attack and that our ship was seized by Somali pirates."

The German foreign ministry could not immediately confirm the capture.

Including this weekend's seizures, pirates currently are holding 20 vessels with at least 428 hostages, the EU statement said.


© 2010 AFP

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