British forces helped free a German cargo ship held by Somali pirates off Kenya, it emerged today.
None of the 16 crew members aboard the Beluga Fortune, which was seized about 1,200 miles east of Mombasa on Sunday morning, was harmed in yesterday’s rescue, said Verena Beckhusen, a spokeswoman for shipping company Beluga-Reederei.
The company said the German military and the international anti-pirate mission Operation Atalanta took part in the operation and the vessel was now on its way to South Africa as planned.
German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle thanked the British military and called the case a “good example for international co-operation in the fight against piracy”.
The German foreign and defence ministries would not to give further details about how the rescue occurred, but Nils Stolberg, director of the Beluga-Reederei, said a British frigate, a surveillance plane and a helicopter were involved in freeing the cargo ship.
Mr Stolberg said the rescue went peacefully because by the time the military entered the Beluga Fortune the pirates had already fled.
He praised the ship’s crew, saying it had trained for a similar emergency situation many times over the years.
“They sent out an emergency call, barricaded themselves in a special security room, shut off the fuel supply and the bridge and informed the military,” Mr Stolberg said.
“This way the pirates could not bring the ship under their control or take the sailors at ransom.”
While the Bremen-based company worked with the German foreign ministry in Berlin to inform the German, Russian and Filipino family members of the crew, the German military and the anti-pirate mission evaluated the situation on the ground by deploying ships and a surveillance plane.
Somali pirates have long been active in the region and they are currently holding 19 vessels with 428 hostages, according to the EU Naval Force.
On Saturday night, pirates seized a liquefied gas tanker 105 miles off the coast of Kenya in the Somali Basin, said officials in Singapore, where the ship is registered.
The MV York was travelling from Mombasa to Mahe in the Seychelles with 17 crew when pirates commandeered it, the Singapore Maritime and Port Authority said.
The authority said it was working with the ship’s owner, York Maritime, and government agencies to recover the ship.
The 5,076-ton MV York had one German, two Ukrainians and 14 Filipinos aboard, the EU force said in a statement.
Somalia has lacked a fully functioning government since 1991, which makes it difficult to prosecute suspected pirates. United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon recently said options being considered included creating a special international court