Somali pirates hijack cargo ship with 23 crewmen

November 16th, 2008 - 5:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Nairobi, Nov 16 (Xinhua) Pirates have hijacked a cargo ship carrying 23 crew off the coast of Somalia, a regional maritime official said here Sunday. Andrew Mwangurea, the coordinator of the East Africa Seafarers Association, said the Japanese freighter, whose crewmen include five South Koreans, was hijacked by an armed group in waters off Somalia late Saturday.

“The cargo ship was hijacked Saturday afternoon with five Koreans onboard. I have not established where the vessel was sailing to and from which country and other nationalities of the crew members,” Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone.

But later reports said the 20,000-ton ship Chemstar Venus, owned by a Japanese shipping company and registered in Panama, was seized by gunmen Saturday.

The ship includes five South Koreans and 18 Filipinos and was carrying unidentified chemicals, said a statement from the Korean foreign ministry.

The latest hijacking came as the Korean government plans to send a warship to Somali waters to combat piracy there.

Eight South Koreans were abducted in September after their freighter was seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The sailors were released unharmed after more than a month of captivity.

The mission to send a 4,500-ton destroyer loaded with SM-2 Block IIIA missiles and other cutting-edge weaponry as well as the navy’s Special Forces is estimated to cost about $4.3 million.

The UN Security Council approved a new resolution in October seeking to step up the fight against piracy off Somalia.

It calls for all states to actively contribute to anti-piracy efforts in Somali waters, including the dispatch of warships and warplanes in order to stop pirates.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said it will cooperate with the Japanese government and shipping company to secure the early release of the sailors. The name of the Japanese firm was not immediately available.

Somalia, which has had no functioning government since 1991, is the world’s top piracy hotspot.

The Gulf of Aden connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and is one of the world’s busiest waterways with some 20,000 ships passing through it each year.

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