Gang applying pressure to relatives in order to secure ransom
Information reaching Somalia Report late Wednesday suggests that Somali pirates have moved the 23 hostages of the the Malaysian-flagged container ship, MV ALBEDO, to land.
The pirate gang holding the hijacked Malaysian tanker, the MV Albedo, have taken the crew from the ship and are now holding them on land. Pirate sources close to the gang in Handulle told Somalia Report that Guushaye, the pirate’s leader and his gang landed the crew late yesterday.
“Since the negotiation to release the vessel failed at the end of May, the group were taking more steps. They landed more goods from the vessel and late on Wednesday they landed the crew and right now they are holding the crew on land,” Mukhtaar Carab, a pirate based in Handulle, told Somalia Report on Thursday.
Other pirate sources in Handulle contacted by Somalia Report confirmed that Guushaye had indeed brought the crew ashore. They stated that the pirates became angry after the ransom was not paid on time. “This group are aware that the relatives are paying only to ransom the crew, but the owner are not ready to pay money for the vessel, so they (pirates) need to pressure the relatives in to paying the ransom quickly. That is why they landed the crew,” another pirate from Handulle told Somalia Report.
Guushaye and his group have landed several more tonnes of cargo from the MV Albedo, thought to be mainly building materials. “After the negotiations failed, they landed more goods from the vessel. These goods are mostly building materials and have been transferred to Mogadishu and Galka’ayo for sale,” another pirate in Handulle informed us.
Other sources in the area added that the pirates took the crew to a forest area in Eastern Handulle, near the Camaara area, which is around 100km east of Handulle itself, and that the crew is being held by “dozens” of armed men from Guushaye’s gang.
MV ALBEDO, IMO number 9041162 and built in 1993 with a dry weight of 15566 t, is owned by Malaysia-based Enrich Shipping, and was attacked by pirates on November 26, 2010 while underway from Mombasa to Jebel Ali, 293 miles west of the Maldives on the Indian Ocean.
Confusion Over Ransom
The vessel has been the subject of numerous false ransom stories in recent months.
The 23 crew members are comprised of Bangladeshi, Iranian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan nationals and there have been several campaigns in recent months in Pakistan petitioning for their release. After increased pressure on the Pakistani government, Pakistani businessman and chairman of Bahria, Malik Riaz, announced that he would be topping up the ransom fund in order to release the vessel and its crew. After an initial ransom demand of $8 million, which the owners were unable to pay, the hijackers reduced the ransom to $2.85 million.
Sources told Somalia Report pirates holding the vessel are pushing heavily for a ransom of $5.5 million and are in fear of anti-piracy operations. Isse Yulux, pirate leader, decided to release the vessel after capturing a second ship, the UAE-owned, chemical products tanker, MT Royal Grace, hijacked on March 2nd of this year. Due to financial pressures, the ransom was set at $5.5 million, but his fellow pirates rejected that sum, blaming Yulux for the break in negotiations. Meanwhile, another source close to the pirates claims that they are threatening the hostages in order to speed up the delivery of the agreed ransom.
In July 2011, the Malaysian owners told Somalia Report that negotiations to release the vessel had halted, due to the company’s inability to raise the $3.4 million ransom demanded by pirates at the time. Captain Ismail Mohammad stated that the company had even been forced to lay off some employees due to the economic situation the shipping industry was in. “We are currently operating with a skeleton staff,” he told Somalia Report.
In May of this year, pirates claimed a ransom deal had been reached and the ship would be released but that proved to be false.
Somalia Report will continue to monitor the situation.
This article was posted by Neptune Maritime Security with the kind permission of SomaliaReport.com. MaritimeSecurity.Asia in cooperation with www.neptunemaritimesecurity.com