Archive for 09/10/2011

The Jakarta Post –

An overcrowded ship sank in deep sea off mainland Tanzania on Saturday with about 600 people onboard, and about 370 people are believed missing or dead.

The ferry, M.V. Spice Islanders, was heavily overloaded and some potential passengers had refused to board when it was leaving the mainland port of Dar es Salaam, said survivo Abdullah Saied. It sank in an area with heavy currents in deep sea between mainland Tanzania and Pemba Island at about 1 a.m. Saturday.

About 230 people had been rescued and 40 bodies had been recovered, said Mohamed Aboud, the minister for the vice president’s office.

Thousands of residents mobbed the ocks of Stone Town on Zanzibar, an island near Pemba, waiting for news. One man was screaming that he had lost 25 members of his family, including his sisters, his wife and grandsons. He was too upset to give his name. Many of the crowd were crying or screaming.

Seven bodies have washed up so far, said witnessAbdirizak Juma.

Many of those present expressed anger that the ship had been allowed to leave port so overloaded and called on government officials to resign.

The green and hilly island of Pemba is often described as one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world.

Swissinfo –

Four people were thought to have been kidnapped by pirates after international forces found a French yacht lying unoccupied off the coast of Yemen, a source from the Yemeni coast guard’s office said on Friday.

The French Foreign Ministry said earlier in the day that a French-registered boat had been found by a German frigate with no passengers on it after making an emergency call late on Thursday.

“The yacht left Aden on September 4 and we lost contact with them on Thursday until international forces found it off the coast of al-Mahra,” the source said, adding that he did not know the crew’s nationality.

He added that they had probably been abducted by pirates.

The Al-Mahra governorate is in the east of Yemen and borders the sultanate of Oman.

The deputy director of the coast guard, Abdulrahman Moussa, issued a statement on Yemeni state news agency Saba denying the passengers’ disappearance.

He said international patrols had rescued a man and his wife from the yacht.

Shipping and maritime sources say Somali pirates have been using the remote island of Socotra, close to the Mahra coastline, as a refuelling hub and that sea borne gangs have been exploiting political turmoil in Yemen.

Scores of vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden have been hijacked with pirates making tens of millions of dollars in ransom from commandeering the ships and seizing hostages.

Full story…

Jonathan Saul –

Shipping industry groups have urged the United Nations to create an armed military force to be deployed on vessels to combat Somali piracy, describing the escalating crisis in the Indian Ocean as being like the “wild West”.

The piracy is costing the world economy billions of dollars a year and international navies have struggled to combat the menace, especially in the Indian Ocean, due to the vast distances involved.

The shipping industry, some of whose members already employ private guards, says better armed and increasingly violent seaborne gangs pose a growing threat to vital sea lanes.

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent last month and published on Friday, the world’s four international shipping associations said hundreds of seafarers were being held hostage and 60 merchant mariners had died already due to piracy.

“It is now abundantly clear to shipping companies that the current situation, whereby control of the Indian Ocean has been ceded to pirates, requires a bold new strategy,” they said.

“Rather than meeting their obligations under the U.N. convention on the law of the sea, governments have allowed the Indian Ocean to resemble the ‘wild West’.”

While naval patrols, including vessels from the European Union, the United States and other nations such as South Korea, Iran and Turkey, have curbed the number of attacks in the Gulf of Aden, piracy in the Indian Ocean has continued to rise.

The four associations, the International Chamber of Shipping, BIMCO, Intercargo and INTERTANKO, which represent the majority of the world’s ship owners, said the situation could only be reversed with a different approach to supplement long term development work in Somalia.

“We believe that an important element in this approach would be the establishment of a U.N. force of armed military guards that can be deployed in small numbers onboard merchant ships.”

Full story…

Dan Williams –

Israel will keep blockading Gaza in the face of Turkey’s unprecedented naval challenge and is prepared for escalation though it wants to ease tensions with its former ally, officials said Friday.

Deepening a crisis over Israel’s killing last year of nine Turkish citizens aboard an aid flotilla that tried to reach the Palestinian enclave, Turkey vowed Thursday to assign warships to escort such convoys in the future.

The prospect of a showdown at sea with Turkey, a NATO power and fellow U.S. strategic partner in the region, rattled Israelis already on edge over Arab world political upheaval and Iran’s nuclear program.

Breaking an almost 24-hour-long silence on the warships comments, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Israeli policy “was and remains the prevention of deterioration in our ties with Turkey and easing the tensions between the countries.”

“The prime minister and cabinet discussed the various theoretical possibilities should escalation occur,” it said in a statement. “But a decision on such will be made only if and when required.”

Confrontation did not appear imminent after the IHH, a Turkish Islamist charity that owned the Mavi Marmara cruise ship stormed by Israeli marines on May 31, 2010, said in Istanbul it had no plan “for now” to mount another Gaza mission.

But Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan also pledged to boost naval patrols around eastern Mediterranean gas fields being developed by Israel, a potential blow to the Netanyahu government’s quest for energy independence.

Full story…