Saturday, September 11, 2010
US Marines rescued a German-owned ship seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia after hijackers vainly sought the crew which hid in a secret compartment, the US military and the shipping firm said yesterday. The pirates spent nearly 20 hours searching for the crew and even phoned the company in Germany to ask where they were hidden, a firm spokesman said. In a pre-dawn raid on Thursday, the Marines "boarded and seized control of the Antigua-Barbuda flagged vessel M/V Magellan Star from pirates who attacked and boarded it early Wednesday," the US Fifth Fleet said. No-one was hurt. The crew members were freed and nine pirates arrested. The hijack attempt began after the pirates boarded the 8,000-tonne container ship, Juergen Salamon, a spokesman for the Quadrant shipping company in the northern German city of Hamburg, said. "The crew had closed down the engines and locked themselves away in a safe room which the pirates were unable to find." After searching the ship for three hours, the pirates picked up the phone and called the company asking about the crew's whereabouts.
"They were told the crew was on holiday," the spokesman said. "They then asked how to switch the engines back on, but were told they were broken." The 11-man crew, comprising two Russians, two Poles, and seven Filipinos, spent the time in the small, cramped safe room whose entrance was not immediately obvious, he said. The rescue operation was launched from the USS Dubuque after a Turkish frigate - part of a multi-national force - responded to a distress signal from the Magellan Star sailing from Bilbao in Spain to Singapore. The multi-national force was set up in January 2009 to protect shipping lanes and stamp out piracy in the Gulf and Indian Ocean. Unofficial figures show 2009 was the most prolific year yet for Somali pirates, with more than 200 attacks, including 68 successful hijackings, and ransoms believed to exceed $50 million (BD18.85m). At least 23 foreign vessels with more than 400 crew members are still held by pirates, said Ecoterra International, which monitors piracy, in its latest report.