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ECOTERRA INTERNATIONAL - UPDATES & STATMENTS, REVIEW & CLEARING-HOUSE

   Somali Marine & Coastal Monitor update september 16.

Ecoterra international dimecres 16 de setembre de 2009



2009-09-16 WED 00h24:37 UTC

Issue No. 245

BREAKING:

German navy releases suspected pirates after thwarting attack
- DPA The German navy has released four suspected pirates, captured last week in an operation to prevent a suspected piracy attack in the Gulf of Aden, the Bundeswehr said Tuesday. A fifth suspect had died when the Brandenburg navy frigate attempted to stop a suspicious-looking boat off the coast of Somalia on September 7. This was the first fatality caused by the Bundeswehr mission. The body is to be returned to Somalia in coordination with the International Red Cross, according to a statement published on the Bundeswehr website. The four men were released after German officials - consulting with the European Union-led Atalanta operation headquarters - decided not to extradite them to Kenya for prosecution. EU experts said they were not sufficiently sure that the men would be convicted in Kenya. The German government did not want to prosecute as no German interests had been damaged. Consequently, the men were released on Monday afternoon, within sight of the Somali coast.

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news from sea-jackings, abductions, newly attacked ships and vessels in distress


Release of 22 Filipino seafares - as reported by ECOTERRA Intl. - confirmed (not 21 as wrongly reported in other media!)

22 Filipinos on Board MV Irene Released by Somali Pirates
The local manning agency of Greek-owned hijacked vessel MV Irene confirmed to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) today the release of the ship and its crew by Somali pirates.
MV Irene was seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on 14 April 2009. It has 22 Filipino seafarers on board.
The local manning agency, Bright Maritime Corp., told the DFA that negotiations for the release of the vessel and its crew had been successful and that it is now working on the repatriation of the Filipino seafarers.
With this development, the total number of Filipino seafarers in the custody of Somali pirates has gone down to 20, involving two vessels

22 Pinoy seafarers freed by pirates in Somalia
by Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV
After more than five months in captivity, 22 Filipino seafarers on board a Greek merchant ship were freed by their Somali captors, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
In a statement on Tuesday, the DFA said the local manning agency of MV Irene E.M. confirmed the safe release of the all-Filipino crew on Monday.
"Negotiations for the release of the vessel and its crew had been successful and that it is now working on the repatriation of the Filipino seafarers," the DFA said.
The St. Vincent-flagged merchant ship was hijacked off the Gulf of Aden last April 15.
This latest development has brought down to 22 the total number of Filipino seafarers still held hostage this year.
Somali pirates often do not hurt their hostages and only demand a hefty ransom from ship owners. Last year however, a Filipino seafarer died by accident, when the Somali bandits boarded their ship. The body has since been repatriated.
Earlier, Malacañang refused to direct any of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ funds to pay any part of the $2.8 million or almost P137 million in exchange for the release of the 22 Filipino seafarers of MV Irene.
The families of the victims have earlier appealed to the Philippine government, the United Nations, the African Union, and other international organizations to intervene for the release of the hostages. An online petition had even been set up for the release of the hostages and the growing problems of piracy. A similar petition has also been set up on networking sites such as Facebook.
It was not clear whether the Somali pirates received money in exchange for the release of the MV Irene or its crew.

Crew fights back to foil pirates
Pirates near Somalia were foiled after they attacked a North Korean cargo ship.
International Maritime Bureau officials say the ship was adrift off Mogadishu on September 5 for engine repairs when it encountered 10 pirates in two speedboats.
The spokesman said the captain immediately sailed off when the pirates began firing with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. He says the pirates gave chase but the crew threw fire bottles and fired parachute distress rocket flares at the bandits.
He said one of the 30 crew members was injured and the ship sustained damage.

North Korean ship fights off Somali pirates
by Eileen Ng (AP)
Somali pirates tried but failed to hijack a North Korean cargo ship when crew members fought back with improvised fire bombs and sped away, a maritime official said Tuesday.
The ship was adrift off the Somali coast near Mogadishu on Sept. 5 for engine work when the crew saw 10 pirates approaching in two speedboats, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.
The North Korean ship immediately started its engine and moved away, and the captain called the IMB for help when the pirates, dressed in military clothing, began firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, Choong said.
The crew fought back with improvised molotov cocktails — bottles filled with kerosene or similar fluid and set alight by a wick or rag. The crew also fired distress rocket flares at the pirates, and the ship escaped "after the captain increased speed," Choong said. The captain later told the IMB a U.S. warship arrived at the scene, but the pirates had fled, Choong added. He could not confirm it was a U.S. ship. One of the 30 North Korean crew members was injured, and the ship was damaged, Choong said. The ship was heading to the Middle East when it was attacked. It was not clear where the ship went afterward. The incident raised the number of attacks off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden this year to 156. So far, 32 ships have been hijacked and five remain held by pirates along with 102 crew members, Choong said. Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 — a power vacuum that has allowed the pirates to operate freely around Somalia’s 1,900-mile (3,060-kilometer) east African coastline, along one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
The U.S. government last week warned of an increase in piracy off Africa’s east coast because the monsoon has ended and Somali pirates will have easier access to passing ships.

Egypt hands over 8 pirates to Puntland government
The government of Egypt has formally handed over eight pirates to the Somali regional authority of Puntland, Radio Garowe reports.
The eight pirates were holding two Egyptian ships and their crew hostage for several months along the coast in neighbouring Sanaag region until Aug. 13, when the crew revolted and retook control of both ships.
The Somali pirates were then taken to Egypt, where Egyptian authorities put them in prison and began extradition talks with Puntland government officials.
Gen. Abdullahi Ahmed "Ilkajir," Puntland’s interior minister, told Radio Garowe that the Puntland government requested that the eight pirates be handed over to local authorities and tried in a Puntland court. Egyptian authorities accepted the proposal and the pirates were brought to the port of Bossaso on Monday, where they are being held at a jail located inside port grounds.
Attempts by Radio Garowe to reach Puntland’s attorney-general for comment were unsuccessful, but government sources said the pirates will be tried in court soon.
Puntland has cooperated with the international community in the fight against piracy, which threatens an important maritime route where some 20,000 vessels pass through each other. The U.S. and French governments had previously handed over groups of pirates to Puntland authorities since 2008.
Located in northeast Somalia, Puntland considers itself as a state within federal Somalia and maintains its own government to administer the region.

UN refugee agency says as many as 65 dead or missing in Gulf of Aden
The United Nations refugee agency said today that 16 people lost their lives and 49 others are missing and presumed dead in three separate smuggling incidents in the Gulf of Aden over the last two days.
“UNHCR staff in Yemen report an increasing number of larger smuggling vessels making the journey across the Gulf of Aden, which puts more lives at risk,” Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva.
A host of reasons from civil war, political instability, famine and poverty in the Horn of Africa have led thousands to make the perilous voyage to Yemen in smugglers’ boats every yCountless migrants fall prey to human traffickers who prosper the most where government scrutiny is at its weakestear.
So far this year, a total of 860 boats and 43,586 people have made that journey, Ms. Fleming said, adding that some 273 people have drowned or are missing at sea and presumed dead.
According to survivors of the first incident, which took place early Sunday off the coast of Radfan in Yemen, one person was reported to have suffocated in the engine room of the boat while others were reportedly beaten and threatened by the smugglers.
The vessel, which left from the Somali town of Elayo last Thursday, capsized as the smuggling crew jumped overboard after being unable to fix an engine failure.
Ms. Fleming said 98 people managed to swim ashore while 43 others are missing and presumed dead.
The second incident involved a boat reportedly carrying 112 Africans, of whom three were reportedly beaten to death by the smugglers and another 10 died due to asphyxiation. The boat reached Yemen on Sunday morning after having left Somalia last Thursday.
In the third incident, a European Union warship rescued 38 people from a small boat that was sinking in deep waters. The boat was originally carrying 46 people, according to survivors. Rescue helicopters launched from the EU vessel spotted two bodies in nearby waters. Another six people are missing and presumed drowned.
The rescued passengers were allowed to disembark this morning at the Yemeni port of Mulkalla, said Ms. Fleming.
Meanwhile, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay today said the millions of people who risk their lives and safety in order to cross international boundaries in search of a better life present one of the most serious human rights problems in the world today.
“Countless migrants fall prey to human traffickers who prosper the most where government scrutiny is at its weakest,” she told the 12th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. “States have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil a wide range of human rights of all individuals under their jurisdiction, including all migrants, regardless of their immigration status.
Ms. Pillay accused authorities and ships of violating international law when they reject or ignore the pleas of migrants stranded at sea. “In many cases, authorities reject these migrants and leave them to face hardship and peril, if not death, as though they were turning away ships laden with dangerous waste. Their fate is thus sealed as they try to cross the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Aden, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and other stretches of water.
“In clear violation of international law, they are abandoned and rejected without proper check of whether they are fleeing persecution. All too often migrants and refugees encounter the same callous rejections at land borders,” she noted.

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With the latest captures and releases now still at least 4 foreign vessels with a total of not less than 98 crew members are accounted for (of which 20 are confirmed to be Filipinos - Win Far 161 - Seized April 6 with 17 Filipinos and MV Charelle- Hijacked June 13 with 3 Filipinos) and are held in Somali waters.

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directly piracy or naval upsurge related reports


Presence of foreign battleships in region symbolizes modern banditry: Iran tells IMO chief -
Tehran Times Political Desk
Top Iranian security official Saeed Jalili has described the deployment of foreign battleships in the region as kind of modern banditry and called for serious measures to deal with all forms of maritime insecurity.
In a meeting with head of the International Maritime Organization Efthimios Mitropoulos on Monday, Jalili pointed to the rampant insecurity in some parts of the world including the Persian Gulf and stressed the need to take measures to tighten seafaring security.
He also criticized certain countries whose nuclear submarines and warships are present in the strategic Persian Gulf waters, saying some of these countries have political purposes and have seriously jeopardized the regional nations’ rights as well as the environment. Mitropoulos pointed to Iran’s efforts to provide security and maintain stability in the region and thanked Tehran for its close cooperation with the IMO.
He also thanked the country for helping to tighten seafaring security in the Gulf of Aden and the coasts off Somalia.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, in a separate meeting with Mitropoulos on Monday, criticized British opposition to the Iranian Navy’s collaboration with the IMO in bringing security to international waters.
Mottaki called on Mitropoulos to ""help resolve such obstacles and provide appropriate facilities"" to the Iranian Navy, Press TV reported. ""The security of the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman should be spread to the Gulf of Aden,"" he added.

South-Korean Naval Force returns
Following the successful completion of 186 days of anti-piracy efforts in waters off Somalia, the first South Korean Cheonghae unit aboard the destroyer Munmu the Great returned to Busan yesterday. In March, the navy dispatched a 300-member task force and the 4,500-ton destroyer to Somalia’s pirate-infested waters. In Korea’s first deployment of a naval combat unit for an overseas mission, the contingent successfully blocked all attempts by pirates to hijack civilian ships in its operational waters, the military said.
According to the Navy, the unit, in cooperation with the international naval task force called Combined Task Force 151, guarded 325 commercial ships, including 140 Korean vessels, in shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia.
The Navy said the force repulsed seven piracy attempts. One of the seven ships saved by the unit was North Korea’s Dabaksol. A second Cheonghae unit and the destroyer Daejoyeong have recently relieved their counterparts on the mission.
In past years, Korean ships and crews have increasingly become the target of Somali pirates. About 460 Korean vessels use the route every year.


ecosystems, marine environment, IUU fishing and dumping, UNCLOS, ecology


Toxic Waste Ship Sunk by the Mafia Found in Italy - At Least 32 More Suspected
by Matthew McDermott, NY
This may sound like a pretty good TV crime show plot, but this is non-fiction: Reuters reports that Italian authorities have discovered a ship containing 180 barrels of toxic waste (some of which may be radioactive), which was purposely sunk by the Mafia, off Italy’s southern coast. What’s more, it’s suspected there are 32 more vessels waiting to be found:
The ship was discovered after a former member of the ’Ndrangheta organized crime organization tipped off police — the informant was personally responsible for sinking this ship and two others.
The 360’-long vessel is about 18 miles off the coast of Calabria, in 1600’ of water. Based on TV images, at least one barrel has fallen off the ship and it now empty on the sea floor.
Since tighter environmental regulations in the 1980s, illegal dumping of toxic waste has been embraced by the Mafia as another lucrative income stream.
Mafia Has Used Somalia As Dumping Ground for 20 Years
Here’s the broader connection here: Since the 1990s the Mafia have been known to dump toxic waste in the waters off Somalia — where the utter lack of government means it costs one-tenth that of dumping in Europe. In 2004, toxic and radioactive waste washed up on Somali beaches, causing illness in local people. This toxic waste dumping is also cited by local fisherman as contributing to declining fish stocks in the region, thereby pushing people to piracy.

Italy finds wreck of toxic waste ship sunk by mafia (Reuters)
Italian authorities have found the wreck of a ship sunk by the mafia with 180 barrels of toxic waste on board, one of more than 30 such vessels believed to lie off Italy’s southern coast, officials said on Tuesday.
Following a lead from a mafia turncoat, investigators used a remote-controlled submersible to film the 110-meter (360-feet) long vessel on Saturday, around 28 km (18 miles) from the coast of the southwestern Italian region of Calabria.
The ship, which officials say may even contain radioactive elements, lay in 500 meters (yards) of water in the Tyrrhenian sea. TV images showed at least one barrel had fallen from its damaged hull and lay empty on the seabed.
"There could be problems of toxins and heavy metals ... this is an issue for the whole international community," said Silvestro Greco, head of Calabria’s environment agency.
The ship’s location was revealed by Francesco Fonti, an ex-member of Calabria’s feared ’Ndrangheta crime group, who confessed to using explosives to sink this vessel and two others.
Greco said investigators believed there were 32 ships carrying toxic waste sunk by the mafia since the introduction of tighter environmental legislation in the 1980s made illegal waste disposal a lucrative business for crime groups.
"The Mediterranean is 0.7 percent of the world’s seas. If in this tiny portion there are more than 30 (toxic waste) shipwrecks, imagine what there could be elsewhere," he said.

FISHERIES WARS ARE ESCALATING
Spain allows use of long-range weapons to fight pirates
Private security firms which protect Spanish fishing boats from Somalian pirates in the Indian Ocean will be allowed to use long-range weapons, Spain’s junior defence minister said Tuesday.
The announcement by Constantino Mendez followed three attempted assaults by pirates on tuna fish trawlers from Spain’s northern Basque Country in the Indian Ocean earlier this month.
He was speaking to reporters following talks with the regional Basque government’s chief for agriculture and fisheries, Pilar Unzalu, in Vitoria. All 17 Spanish fishing trawlers currently operating in the Indian Ocean are from the Basque Country, public television TVE reported.
Many fishermen from the prosperous region bordering France, which has been wracked by decades of separatist violence, have accused Spain’s central government in Madrid of not doing enough to protect them from pirate attacks.
They have called for Spanish marines to ride onboard their ships to boost security but Mendez said that under Spanish law his ministry could not authorise a military escort for the fishing fleet. In July France started placing French marines onboard French tuna trawlers that operate in the Indian Ocean in areas where attacks by Somalian pirates have taken place.
Spain in April allowed Spanish-flagged vessels to employ private security guards to protect them against pirates off the coast of Somalia, who often use rocket launchers and grenades in their attacks. In April 2008 a tuna trawler from the Basque region was captured by pirates in the waters near Somalia for illegal fishing and its crew held for six days before being freed.

Spain lets its tuna boats use hired guns
by Daniel Woolls (AP)
Deputy Defense Minister Constantino Mendez says that Spain cannot station soldiers on fishing boats, as requested by the industry, because Spanish law does not allow this.
Mendez made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday in the Basque country together with the regional fishing minister. Most of the 14 Spanish tuna boats operating in the Indian Ocean are based in the Basque country.
But Spain’s government is now allowing Spanish tuna boats operating in the Indian Ocean to protect themselves against Somali pirates by hiring private security guards armed with high-powered rifles. Spain has had a number of encounters with pirates over the past two years, and Spanish navy vessels are taking part in an EU anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia.
Mendez said Tuesday that back in January the Spanish government decided to let Spanish vessels hire private security guards armed with pistols, but this was soon seen as insufficient firepower against bandits sometimes armed with weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades. The Spanish and Basque governments will consider providing financial aid for ship owners to pay for private security guards, Mendez said.


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