Monday, September 22, 2008
Armed Somali pirates hijacked another Greek ship with 19 crew members off the coast of Somalia in the latest attacks along the world's most dangerous waters, a regional maritime official said on Sunday. Andrew Mwangura, the coordinator of the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP), said the vessel flying Bahamas MV CAPT, STEPHANOS was carrying coal when it was seized off the eastern coast of Somalia, the 15th such seizure by the pirates since July 20. "We received the reports today that the Greek ship flying Bahamas MV CPT, STEPHANOS has been seized by pirates," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone. "The vessel was carrying coal but we don't know whether the Greek ship was sailing from South Africa or not. We also have not established whether the vessel was hijacked today (Sunday) or on Saturday," he said. The incident came barely a week after armed pirates seized a Greek ship with 25 crew members.Using increasingly sophisticated equipment, pirates have stepped up attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden, increasing insurance costs for ship owners and raising the possibility of military intervention. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has reported more than 50 attacks or attempted attacks in or near the Gulf of Aden this year, up from 13 for all of last year. A spate of hijackings by pirates off the coast of Somalia has triggered the deployment of a multi-coalition naval force to patrol the world's most dangerous waters. The Horn of Africa nation's coastline is considered one of the world's most dangerous stretches of water because of piracy. Somalia is at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden, which leads to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, one of the world's most important shipping channels. The country has been plagued by factional fighting between warlords and hasn't had a functioning central administration since the 1991 ouster of former dictator Mohammed Siad Barre.