Pirates seize Indian vessel with 14 crew off Oman

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI - An Indian cargo vessel with 14 crew members on board has been hijacked by suspected Somali pirates off the coast of Oman, navy and Indian Maritime authorities said here Wednesday.

The dhow (a small cargo vessel) was sailing off Oman, about 800 nautical miles away from the Somali coast, early Sunday morning when the pirates struck, taking hostage the 14 Indian crew members on board. Their fate is not known yet.

The dhow, al Musa, is registered in Mandvi in Gujarat and is owned by Sachina Salemamad Sameja and Nurjahan Ibrahim Sameja.

The vessel, carrying a mixed cargo of foodstuff, was on its way from Dubai Port to Salalah when the sea brigands attacked it, taking control and steered it away, probably towards the Somali coast, officials said.

It had left Dubai three days ago and came under pirate attack around 50 miles off Oman in the early hours of Sunday, they said.

The fresh strike from the Somali pirates comes even as an Indian naval warship is patrolling the Gulf of Aden as part of anti-piracy efforts initiated in October 2008 and despite the presence of a multi-national naval force in the region to ward off the sea brigands.

There already exists an advisory from the Directorate General of Shipping asking such small vessels not to take up contract work in the Gulf of Aden region.

The advisory was issued last year after it was noticed that hijacked dhows ended up being used as mother-ships by pirates to launch attacks on large cargo vessels in the high seas far away from the Somali coast.

Till date, the navy’s warship in the Gulf of Aden has escorted over 1,500 cargo vessels along the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC).

In the recent months, the piracy trend had shifted from Gulf of Aden closer to the Somali Coast to central and eastern Arabian Sea, nearer to Indian waters.

In November last year, a Bangladeshi vessel was hijacked off Mumbai by the pirates and it is believed that they used a dhow as a mother ship to launch the attack on the cargo ship.

The dhow owners, mostly from port towns on the western coast of India, usually take up contract work for picking up cargo and delivering them between the eastern African ports and the Gulf region.

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