– January 28: Aris 13 departs Port of Colombo headed to Mogadishu, Somalia via Djibouti
– March 13: Lost communications -reports surface of the vessel being surrounded by small boats
– March 14: The vessel moved by the hijackers to Alula.
– March 15: Hijackers announce ransom intentions.
– March 16: Fighting begin between Puntland forces and Hijackers. Vessel taken back from hijacke following several gun battles
– April 12: Captured crew return home
The group of Sri Lankan sailors returned home just in time for the Sinhala-Tamil New Year. They were welcomed by their relatives and loved ones at the BIA on Wednesday (April 12).
A Sri Lankan-flagged fuel freighter has been suspected of being hijacked by Somali Pirates. The vessel Aris 13 – carrying a crew of eight – had sent a distress call, turned off its tracking system and altered course for the Somali port town of Alula, a piracy expert said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that the crew of eight are in-fact, Sri Lankans.
Foreign media dubbed the vessel ‘a Sri Lankan-flagged freighter’. However, the ministry pointed out that the vessel is not registered under a Sri Lankan flag.
The ministry said that it is “in touch with shipping agents and relevant Sri Lankan Missions overseas to acquire further information and to ensure the safety of the crew”.
“The ship reported it was being followed by two skiffs yesterday (Monday) afternoon. Then it disappeared,” John Steed of the aid group Oceans Beyond Piracy. (source Reuters)
Reports say that a regional naval force aircraft has been attempting to track the ship’s progress and assess the situation.
The 1,800 dead-weight ton Aris 13 is owned by Panama company Armi Shipping and managed by Aurora Ship Management in the United Arab Emirates, according to the Equasis shipping data website, managed by the French transport ministry.
The tanker had departed the Colombo Harbour around 5.30 p.m. on January 28, – bound for the Port of Mogadishu, Somalia carrying oil and gas.
The hijackers had boarded and seized the ship about 30 kilometers off the Somali coast, then anchored off Alula – a town in Somalia’s Puntland region.
Preliminary data has shown the vessel making a sharp turn after it passed the Horn of Africa on its voyage from Djibouti to Mogadishu.
If confirmed, the incident would be the first hijack of a commercial ship by Somali pirates since 2012.
In their heyday, five years ago, Somali pirates terrorized sailors crossing the Gulf of Aden. They launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia in 2011 and held hundreds of hostages. (the International Maritime Bureau)
That year, ‘Ocean’s Beyond Piracy’ estimated the global cost of piracy was around $7 billion. The shipping industry bore around 80% of those costs, the aid group’s analysis showed.
But attacks fell sharply after ship owners tightened security and avoided the Somali coast.
Intervention by regional naval forces that flooded into the area helped disrupt several hijack bids and secure the strategic trade route that leads through the Suez Canal and links the oilfields of the Middle East with European ports.
Somali Pirates who commandeered an oil tanker with a crew of eight Sri Lankans have demanded a ransom for the release of the vessel and the crew.
Speaking to News 1st, Oceans Beyond Piracy says it has received information that the crew of the vessel Aris 13 is safe.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Harsha De Silva assured that all measures are being taken for the safe return of the Sri Lankan Crew.
On March 14, reports surfaced that the Aris 13 oil tanker with a crew of eight Sri Lankans had been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia.
Monday’s hijacking was the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel on the crucial global trade route since 2012.
Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, Director General of Puntland’s Marine Police Forces, told Reuters by phone that its forces have set off to Alula where the vessel was anchored.
Puntland is a semi-autonomous northern region of Somalia and Alula is a port town where pirates took the tanker to.
Aris 13 had left the Colombo Port at 05:30 p.m. on January 28,in order to reach Mogadishu.
It is now known that Nicholas Anthony from Colombo is the skipper of the hijacked vessel while Sunil Perera is the Boatswain of the vessel.
Jayantha Kalubowila is the Chief Engineer of the ship and Janaka Semendra is the Third Engineer of Aris 13.
A. Shanmugam is also among the crew.
Lahiru Indunil from the Akuressa are in Matara joined the ill-fated sailors as a trainee sailor.
A U.N. shipping database shows the Aris 13 is owned by a company based in Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates and the ship flew a flag from the Comoros Islands.
Oceans Beyond Piracy said in a statement late on Tuesday, the ship was carrying gas and fuel and was not registered with the Maritime Security Center for the Horn of Africa, which registers and tracks vessels in the region.
The Ministries of Ports and Shipping and Foreign Affairs are set to discuss measures to free the hijacked vessel.
According to foreign media, the hijackers are demanding a “compensation” for the rise in illegal fishing in Somali waters. The Voice of America say that its Somali service contacted one of the hijackers yesterday via phone.
During the phone conversation, the hijacker has reportedly revealed that seven men were involved in the raid. He had also asserted that he and his colleagues are “fishermen, not pirates”.
Reuters has quoted a regional police official saying “security forces have been sent to free the Aris 13”.
Eos Risk (a UK-based global corporate security risk and crisis management business) tweeted saying that the hijacked vessel is moving westbound at 4.4 knots and questions if the vessel is being moved by pirates or has been freed by local forces.
— EOS Risk Group (@EosRisk) March 14, 2017
Director General of merchant shipping, Ajith Seneviratne is in the process of negotiating terms with the hijackers for the release of crew and vessel.
A rescue operation was launched by Puntland forces in Somalia earlier today, March 16, to free the Aris 13 oil tanker which was hijacked along with eight Sri Lankan crew members on board, off the coast of Somalia.
According to reports, the Puntland forces have exchanged fire with the Somali hijackers on board the vessel.
The gun battle was reported to have taken place in the Habo area in the Bari region located in the Northeast of Somalia.
The Voice of America (VOA) reported that the Puntland forces exchanged gunfire with a small boat carrying supplies for the pirates on board the hijacked oil tanker.
VOA also reports that pirates have mounted heavy machine guns on the deck of the hijacked tanker. Two civilians have been injured in the gun battle.
The sailors on-board the Aris 13 vessel are believed to be safe according to officials.
President Sirisena: “I instructed the Navy Commander to communicate our concern about the safety of the Sri Lankans on-board the captured ship”.
“Combined Maritime Force in Bahrain are in contact with the Somali Maritime Police on our behalf”.
The hijacked Aris 13 vessel was freed following negotiations between Puntland forces and Elders. The vessel and it’s crew of eight then arrived at the Port of Bosaso located in North Eastern Somalia Puntland region.
According to the Chief Engineer of Aris 13, a special unit of the Somali security forces provided an escort to the vessel while it was making it’s way to the Port of Bosaso.
According to Minister Harsha De Silva, the Sri Lankan ambassador in Dubai was dispatched to meet the vessel owners, following the reports.
“The situation was serious because they were shooting at an oil tanker” – the minister added. He said that the ministry received phone calls saying that “the crew will be killed within an hour”, upon which the assault came to an end following a request to minister Abdul Nazir of Puntland.
Captain of the Aris 13 that was liberated from the clutches of Somali pirates said, a special meeting attended by multiple parties including representatives of the shipping company will be held today, March 18.
The Captain speaking to News 1st from the Port of Bosaso in Somalia said that following the discussions a decision on the crew’s return to the island will be reached.
He added that the crew on-board the Aris 13 are safe and in good health. However, a date cannot yet be given on when they will return to Sri Lanka, says the Third Officer of Aris 13.
Third Officer Dileepa Ranaweera informed that the ship -off the coast at present- will be berthed on Sunda, March 19. He said that a specific date cannot be given on their return to Sri Lanka.
Given that it is a “handing procedure” that needs to be followed, Ranaweera explained that the current crew can only return when a replacement crew board the ship.
Meanwhile a warship of the EU Naval Forces had dropped off supplies for the crew of Aris 13 today March 18.
According to EUNF Spokesperson Jacqueline Sheriff, the warship FS Courbert intercepted Aris 13 on it’s way to Bosaso to drop off food and water.
The crew had a special visitor on board the ship on March 19. It was none other-than the Vice President of Puntland -an autonomous state in North-Eastern Somalia.
Furthermore, a felicitation ceremony was held for the rescued crew and the security forces who rescued them.
However, with all that is going on, the question remains. Will these men return to Sri Lanka next week?
Or will they continue to crew the ship on the journey to Mogadishu?
The crew had informed their families back in Sri Lanka that they would take a decision on their return within the week. Also, the possibility remains that they may have to continue to the next stop -Mogadishu – if a new crew fails to report for duty aboard Aris 13.
Await more details
May 26, 2017 0