Pirates seize yet another Samho ship

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Pirates seize yet another Samho ship

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Just two months after Samho Shipping paid a record $9.5 million ransom to Somali pirates to free one of their ships, another company vessel - the 11,500 ton Samho Jewelry - was seized by pirates on Saturday afternoon.

“The company was able to get in contact with the ship and it has been confirmed by Samho Shipping that the 21 men on board, including eight Koreans, are all safe,” said an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “The vessel’s location has also been detected.”

The official said the government suspects Somali pirates.

The South Korean-operated chemical cargo freighter was on its way from the United Arab Emirates to Sri Lanka when it was intercepted in the Arabian Sea on Saturday. The ship was carrying eight Koreans, 11 Myanmar nationals and two Indonesians.

The Foreign Ministry has set up emergency headquarters at its embassy in Kenya. Korea’s counter-piracy Cheonghae Naval Unit was dispatched yesterday to the hijacking site, several government sources said.

The sources added that the hijacking took place some 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) away from the unit, which is based in the Gulf of Aden.

The news comes as a blow for Samho Shipping after it wrapped up a nightmarish seven months of negotiations with Somali pirates last November for the return of the Samho Dream, which was hijacked last April. The negotiations were reported to have been dragged out by major investors in the pirate ring, who kept hiking up the ransom amount.

The company ended up paying $9.5 million.

There were reports in the Korean media that the pirates received a tip on the exact location of the Samho Dream from an insider at the International Maritime Organization, a UN agency that oversees maritime safety and the prevention of pollution from ships.

The crew, five Koreans and 19 Filipinos, returned to their home countries after the ransom was paid, putting an end to the 217-day ordeal.

Samho headquarters in Busan was shut over the weekend and nobody answered the phone.

Meanwhile, public criticism is rising over the Samho Jewelry hijacking and the Korean government’s inability to protect its ships.

Moon Ha-yong, ambassador for International Counter Terrorism Cooperation for Overseas Koreans and Consular Affairs, was selected last November to be chairman of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) at its headquarters in New York.

The Cheonghae Unit operates in waters near Somalia, but was unable to prevent the hijacking of the Samho Jewelry.

The same unit was dispatched in April when the Samho Dream was seized by pirates.

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]


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