Shipping goods to Somalia threatened

DUBAI — With several pirate attacks off Somali’s unpatrolled coast in the past two months, traditional dhow owners and Somali shipping agents in Dubai yesterday said shortage of food and basic requirements might hit the war-torn Horn of Africa country once export of these items from other countries is stopped.

By Riyasbabu

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Published: Sun 1 Jul 2007, 8:59 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:56 AM

The vessels carrying cargo of food and other essential items cannot be operated if pirate attacks continue.

More than 90 per cent of cargo vessels bound for Somalia are chartered from different ports of UAE with 6 to 10 vessels carrying general cargo leaving for different Somali ports everyday.

Narendhra Shial, who has been operating dhows for more than 10 years between Dubai and Somalia, said, “In the past two months 6 vessels from Dubai have been hijacked. Pirates are demanding huge ransoms for releasing the vessels and the sailors are now reluctant to sail in Somali territorial waters.”

“If this situation continues,” he said, “we will have no choice but to stop our operations. My vessel, MV Al Taj, was hijacked last year. They killed one of the crew and I had to pay US$50,000 as ransom to release the vessel. It is impossible to operate this way.”

Issa Mohammed, owner of another vessel said, “Recently, Somali pirates released three Dubai-owned vessels — MV. Marriem Queen, MV Al Aqiq and MV Mimathullah — after the owners and charters paid huge ransoms. We cannot operate in this situation.”

“If we stop sending our vessels, it will be a big loss for us. But more than that it will affect the supply of basic needs for Somali people,” he pointed out.

Hassan Abdi, a Somali shipping agent in Dubai, said, “The vessel owners are reluctant to chart their vessels to Somali ports. Apart from the pirate threat, they have to pay high insurance premiums. The prices of food and other commodities are already high in Somalia because of the instability and high insurance premiums for cargo vessels.”

The vessel movement between Dubai and Somalia, he said, already declined more than 50 per cent in the last month.

Noor Mohammed, a sailor who had been hijacked by Somali pirates last year along with 13 others, said, “It was the worst experience for me in my life. I don’t want to sail again to Somali coast.”

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Andrew Mwangura, who heads the Kenyan office of the Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, said so far this year at least 10 attacks and many attempted attacks off Somalia’s coast have taken place.

Currently, the pirates, he said, have three fishing boats and a Danish freighter along with 46 crew members in their custody. “The Danish vessel was sailing to Mombassa from Dubai when it was hijacked. We’ve got information that there is not enough food in the vessel,” he said.

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