Call for action against pirates

A British shipping union chief called for tougher action against piracy after a British-owned vessel was seized by Somalians in the Gulf of Aden.

The pirates, sailing in two small rowing boats, hijacked the 32,000-tonne bulk carrier Malaspina Castle just before 7am Irish time yesterday.

The Panamanian-flagged vessel, which was bound for China with a cargo of iron, had 24 people aboard from Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine and the Philippines.

All were believed to be safe and the 183m-long vessel, built in 1981, was thought to be undamaged.

Mark Dickinson, assistant general secretary of the UK ships’ masters’ union Nautilus, condemned the attack – the latest in a series of incidents involving Somali pirates.

“Over the last 10 years, most governments have not really done very much about this.

“More recently they have been motivated to act and there is an EU naval co-ordination force patrolling off the Gulf of Aden.

“I’m not sure that this is going to be a long-term thing and I’m also worried that the pirates will start seizing ships well away from the areas being patrolled.

“In Somalia, piracy is like a big, successful industry and the authorities there need to act. The pirates are treated like local heroes. People look up to them and girls want to marry them. They are seen by some locals as good people, but they are ruthless.”

Vessels in the Gulf of Aden area are urged to register with the Horn of Africa maritime security centre website.

This is run at Northwood in north west London by EU NavFor (Naval Force) which co-ordinates anti-piracy arrangements under the codename Operation Atalanta.

An EU NavFor spokesman said: “We encourage vessels to register with us so they can arrange to move together through the Gulf of Aden area in group transit.

“They are not escorted in these transits by naval vessels but obviously there is safety in numbers. The British-owned vessel in (yesterday’s) incident was not in a group transit.”

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