French frigate, Spanish trawler ward off pirate attacks

26th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A French frigate Tuesday repelled a pirate attack on a ship approaching the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam and a Spanish fishing trawler fended off a similar attempt off Madagascar.

The Nivose responded to a distress call from the Cyprus-flagged North Neptuna cargo ship and changed its course from near Zanzibar to a position 58 nautical miles away, the French military said in a statement.

The Nivose, part of the European anti-piracy naval force Atalanta, set up to fight Somali piracy, also dispatched a helicopter which fired shots at the attackers who were trying to board the ship at around 4:00 am local time.

The pirates, travelling in skiffs, then escaped, it said.

A Spanish fishing trawler fended off an attack in the first such attempt recorded in the Canal of Mozambique, its owners said.

"This morning, our tuna trawler, the Campolibre Alai, was the victim of a pirate attack in the waters of Madagascar, near the waters of the French island of Mayotte," the Echebasta company said in a statement.

"The boat took evasive manoeuvres and was able to leave the area without suffering any harm to personnel," it said.

It added that security measures on board had "functioned effectively."

According to maritime sources, the attack occurred 70 nautical miles east of Mayotte and 90 nautical miles from Madagascar, in the northern part of the Canal of Mozambique.

The Spanish vessel was attacked just after pulling back its nets and only spotted the pirate skiff when it was one nautical mile away.

Since foreign navies deployed an armada of warships to curb attacks in the busy Gulf of Aden, Somalia's ransom-hunting pirates have ventured further away from their coast to capture their prey.

The French and Spanish tuna-fishing fleets based in the Indian Ocean had been attacked mainly around the Seychelles archipelago but pirates had rarely ventured as far south as Madagascar.

Last year another Spanish tuna fishing vessel, the Alakrana, and its crew of 36 were taken hostage for more than a month off the coast of Somalia, where pirates have bases.

They were freed after a ransom of four million dollars (three million euros) was paid, according to the Somali pirates who had captured them.

Spanish boats do not carry soldiers when they travel through the area, unlike French vessels.

But Madrid allows private security guards to carry weapons on the vessels to protect them.

According to the London-based International Maritime Bureau, which monitors maritime crime, pirates attempted 215 attacks on merchant ships off the Somali coast in 2009.


© 2010 AFP

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