Hijacked Malaysian Sea-Vessel Headed to Somalia's Pirate Paradise
BOSASSO (Somalia): Somali pirates are taking a hijacked Malaysian tanker to their coastal base, where gunmen are already holding six vessels for ransom, a local official said yesterday.
The MSIC's (Malasysian Shipping International Corporation Sdn. Bhd) vessel, Bunga Melati Lima ("Jasmine 5") was seized on Friday in the Gulf of Aden and was reported to be carrying 30,000 tonnes of petrochemicals from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.
Just a week before Melati 5 was hijacked, another Malaysian vessel, Bunga Melati 2 was also taken by pirates off the Somali's coast on 22nd August.
The Somali pirates are currently demanding RM10 million (USD 2,950,283.60) as ransom sought for the release of the 36 Malaysian crews on board of Melati Dua. While the fate of Melati 5 is still unknown besides that it is being brought to the Somali coast.
International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre recorded that Somali sea-gunmen have hijacked at least 30 ships in the area (so far) this year.
Only last week, they have seized 4 in 48 hours and are currently holding captive about 130 crew hostages (including Malaysians, Thaiand, Japan, Germany, Nigeria and Iran).
It was reported that Bunga Melati 5 was attempting an evasive maneuver before it was overpowered by the heavily armed gun-toting hijackers, and all 36 Malaysian crew members were taken hostage.
However the dirty pictures of rotten teeth buccaneers and scalliwags are far from the realities of today's pirate. As the pirates of the Gulf of Aden are actually living in the 7 star multimillionaire lifestyle.
Their wealth is not from preying on the abject poor, or from ingenuity in exploiting the desperate situation in their country.
These filthy rich men are pirates, who have turned lawless Somalia into a pirates' paradise.
The vessels which are usually oil tankers are worth millions and along with their cargoes that are also worth millions.
But these exploitative pirates are not after the vessels nor to sell off the contents, but they hijack ships and hold the crew hostage for cold hard cash in US currency.
Governments and shipowners are put under preassure to reclaim their vessels and goods as well as to get back their crews safely out usually "buckle" under the pirate's demands.
So lucrative is the piracy business that at least 30 ships have been hijacked off the coast of Somalia so far this year, including two belonging to Malaysian International Shipping Corporation.
Usually the pirates are youths who used to work as bodyguards in the government militia who are drawn by the big pay and lucrative rewards available at sea.
The pirates are said to be living in palatial beachfront houses and driving expensive luxury sportcars. These images have made piracy the "beacon of hope" for young men who are desperate for work and fast cash in what is considered to be one of the world's most poorest countries.
The pirates' favourite choice of currency is US dollars and the method of payment is normally in cash. Deposits into bank accounts are discouraged as paperwork and records mean a trail will be left behind.
The piracy activity in Somali's coast has been putting vessels and marine patrols in "code-red" because of their increasing strength and numbers since the last month, where piracy attacks was reported to be unprecedented.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said the piracy problem in the area fell under the United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea.
However, he said, the convention "has more bark than bite". Rais said Wisma Putra had established a committee with the Defence Ministry and Malaysian International Shipping Corporation Bhd (MISC) to find a solution.
But the pirates have no interest in dealing with the country but will only deal with shipowners which is MISC.
And eventhough many precautions are currently being taken, for instance the Malaysian Transport Minister, Dr. Ong Tee Kiat said that he will review the Maritime water routes in the next coming days.
As well as the set up of Maritime Security Patrol Area (coalition of warships, aircraft and several western countries) to avert piracy and hijacking.
But all these are no guarantees of safe passage.
It was thought that the Malaccan strait and Indonesian waters were the most feared shipping sea-routes in the modern world, but it's turning out that the new millionaire piracy club are taking over the waterways.
And with 20,000 ships passing through the Gulf of Aden each year heading to and fro from the Suez Canal, they're really cashing it in -- and all in the expense of other people's lives.