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Somalia: Hijacked Yacht Skipper Safe, Crew taken Hostage

By Sue Richards last modified Nov 09, 2010 10:00 AM

Published: 2010-11-09 10:00:56
Topics: Piracy & Security
Countries: Somalia , South Africa

Earlier Reports following information from the Seafarer's Network, whereby a sailing yacht with three crew on board had possibly been abducted by Somali Pirates, have now been confirmed officially.

EU NAVFOR (European Union Naval Force Somalia) confirm that a South African yachtsman, who escaped capture by pirates when he refused to cooperate with them, was safely taken on board an EU NAVFOR warship on Sunday 7 November.

His yacht had been located by the EU NAVFOR warship FS FLOREAL on 6 November when it was discovered to be sailing suspiciously close to the Somalian shore. Despite numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact the yacht, including a flypast by the ship’s helicopter, no answer was received and the French warship launched her boarding team to investigate further.

Upon approaching, the team came under fire from the yacht and a Mayday call was recieved making it clear that pirates were on board and that the crew of three were under their control.

The FS FLOREAL remained in the vicinity of the pirated vessel. The yacht eventually ran aground near the shore during the early morning of 7 November. As a result of the grounding, the pirates attempted to remove the three crewmembers ashore. The South African skipper of the yacht refused to leave his vessel and the pirates left with the remaining two crewmembers as hostages.

Once the pirates had left the yacht, the skipper was rescued by the EU NAVFOR warship FS FLOREAL. He is confirmed as being safe and has been handed over to South African officials at the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

ECOTERRA International report that it is now believed that the yacht is the one-masted sailing yacht "SY CHOIZIL".

South Africa's High Commissioner to Kenya, Ndumiso Ntshinga, said he had been in contact with the rescued yachtsman on Monday and confirmed the two captives, a man and a woman, were both South African citizens. Unfortunately, the woman and a young male, who were abducted from the yacht, are reportedly at present held hostage south of Brawa. No ransom demands have been made. He said the names of the two hostages were not being released until their next of kin had been contacted.

Pirates, several residents and al Shabaab rebels who control the southern Somali coastal town of Barawe told Reuters on Sunday that a hostage had been shot dead.

"We only can hope that the different reports speaking of the killing of one man, whereby at present nobody can say if that had been caused by the naval interaction or by the pirates, will turn out to be not correct at all," said a spokesman from ECOTERRA Intl., adding: "and we hope and urge the local elders to ensure that the innocent woman and the young boy will be set free immediately."

Since the Al-Shabaab administration, who governs the vast areas in Southern Somalia where the ancient coastal town of Baraawe (Brawa) is located, had earlier openly condemned any act of piracy, it is hoped that a safe and unconditional release of the hostages can be achieved.

Per Klingvall, spokesman for EU NAVFOR, said the anti-piracy task force had no information about anyone being killed, and that the rescued yachtsman had not been shot.