Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bring it on, say Somali supertanker pirates

Medeshi 22 Nov, 2008
Bring it on, say Somali supertanker pirates
SOMALI pirates holding an oil-laden Saudi supertanker say they will fight back if there is any military intervention to free the ship.
"I hope the owner of the tanker is wise enough and won't allow any military option because that would be disastrous for everybody. We are here to defend the tanker if attacked," Abdiyare Moalim said.
Speaking from the coastal village and pirate stronghold of Haradhere, off which the Sirius Star is anchored, he said he was one of the pirates on shore organising militias protecting the area.
Negotiations continue with the owners of the super-tanker, who on Thursday were given 10 days to pay a ransom of $US25 million ($41.06 million).
A local fisherman said reinforcements of at least 10 well-armed men had joined the pirates holding the ship and its 25 crew.
"Early this morning, I saw at least 10 heavily armed pirates heading to the ship. Their boat returned after dropping them off," Hassan Ahmed said.
The member of the pirate group said the gunmen holding the Sirius Star and its $US100 million of crude oil had no intention of destroying the vessel, the largest ever seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia.
"Their intention is clear, I was speaking to them some minutes ago and they told me they are not going to destroy the ship or harm the crew. They are hoping to get what they demanded," he said.
Harardhere is 300km north of lawless Somalia's capital Mogadishu.
Oil tanker hijackers build up defences in Somalia
Somali pirates have built up their defences around a captured Saudi Arabian super-tanker after reportedly demanding a $US25 million ransom.
The Sirius Star, the biggest ship ever hijacked, and its $US100 million cargo of oil was seized on 15 November and taken to Harardhere, 300km north of Somalia's capital Mogadishu.
As foreign navies sent warships to Somalia's dangerous waters and shipping companies sought alternative routes, extra clan militia and other fighters were brought in to Harardhere, residents said on Friday.
Local militia and hardline Shebab fighters have also arrived in what some residents said was a move to position themselves for a share of any ransom paid.
"There are two armed vehicles belonging to al Shebab. They have reached the town of Harardhere but there are no intentions of attacking the ship from here," a Harardhere Islamist official said by phone.
The militiamen want a share from the pirates if the ransom is paid, said Ahmed Abdullahi, a local elder. "They believe this ship is huge and the owner will pay a lot of money."
The pirates on Thursday gave the owners 10 days to pay the ransom.
However the company conducting negotiations on behalf of the tanker's owners has denied the figure of $US25 million has been demanded in ransom, reports the BBC.
The BBC also reports shipping industry experts expect the ransom for the tanker to be much higher.
Speaking from the tanker, a pirate who identified himself as Mohamed Said threatened "disastrous" consequences should Vela International, shipping arm of the Saudi oil giant Saudi Aramco, fail to comply.
He did not specify the threatened action but the 330-metre-long tanker is carrying two million barrels of crude oil.

Somali piracy starts affecting fuel pump prices in Uganda
KAMPALA, Nov. 22 -- Piracy off the coast of Somalia is partly to blame for the increasing pump prices in Uganda, a top government official said here on Saturday.
Kamander Bataringaya, minister of state for energy in charge of minerals told reporters that freight charges have gone up due to the increased risk of petroleum tankers being hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
He said the insurance premiums for the tankers have also gone up which has forced dealers to pass the cost pressures on to the consumers.
Pump prices especially in the capital Kampala have been unstable in recent weeks with the highest being 2,850 shillings (1.6 U.S. dollars) for a liter of petrol.
Other factors pushing up the prices include depreciation of the local currency against the dollar, increase in transit truck charges due to the three axle weight limitation introduced in Kenya.
Uganda imports and exports all its products through the Kenyan sea port of Mombasa because it is land locked.
Analysts have warned that prices of basic consumer goods are also expected to increase as shipping operators opt for alternative routes to avoid the pirate-infested waters.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been on the increase affecting the shipping route, the world's busiest trade route, linking the Middle East and Asia to Europe and beyond through the Suez Canal.

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