UPDATE: Somalia sends soldiers to free Sri Lankans on Aris 13

(BOSASSO, LANKAPUVATH) – Somali forces have been sent to free the hijacked fuel freighter, a Regional Police official said on Tuesday (14).

“We are determined to rescue the ship and its crew. Our forces have set off to Alula. It is our duty to rescue ships hijacked by pirates and we shall rescue it,” Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, Director General of Puntland’s Marine Police Forces, told Reuters.

Puntland is a semi-autonomous Northern Region. Alula is a Port Town there where pirates have taken the Aris 13 and her 8 Sri Lankan crew.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sri Lanka Navy have confirmed the presence of 8 Sri Lankans on the vessel, but noted that the ship was not sailing under a Sri Lankan flag. Citing initial reports, the Ministry stated “While the vessel involved is not registered under a Sri Lankan flag, it has a 8 member Sri Lankan crew.”

The Foreign Ministry further stressed that it is in touch with shipping agents and relevant Sri Lankan Missions overseas to acquire further information and to ensure the safety of the crew.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) anti-piracy operation in the Horn of Africa Region said that pirates are demanding a ransom for the release of Aris 13 seized off the Coast of Somalia and the crew is being held captive.

An EU Naval Force statement said the operation had finally made contact with the ship’s master, who confirmed that armed men were on board the 1,800 dwt vessel.

The reported seizure Monday of the vessel, which was the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel off Somalia since 2012, came as a surprise to the global shipping industry as patrols by the Navies of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) countries, as well as China, India and Iran, had suppressed Somali pirate hijackings for several years.

However, the United Nations (UN) warned in October that the situation was fragile and that Somali pirates “Possess the intent and capability to resume attacks”. One expert said some in the region had let down their guard as the situation calmed. NATO ended its anti-piracy mission off Somalia in December.

Reuters said data from its systems showed the vessel made a sharp turn just after it passed the Horn of Africa on its voyage from Djibouti to Mogadishu.

The News Agency said it was told by John Steed of the organisation “Oceans Beyond Piracy,” the Aris 13 sent a distress call on Monday, turned off its tracking system, and altered course for the Somali Port Town of Alula.

Piracy off Somalia’s Coast was once a serious threat to the global shipping industry. But it has lessened in recent years after an international effort to patrol near the country, whose weak Central Government has been trying to assert itself after a quarter-century of conflict.


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