Somalian pirates scared away from Korean shipQuick thinking and speedy help from a Turkish warship helped the crew of the Hanjin Tianjin avoid being captured by Somali pirates near the Gulf of Aden Thursday.
But the biggest lifesaver for the Tianjin crew was probably the ship’s “citadel,” a kind of panic room in which they took cover when pirates started firing at them Thursday morning Korea time.
The Korean military said yesterday that 16 pirates were presumed to be involved in the botched bid to hijack the Korean container ship carrying 14 Koreans and six Indonesians.
Korea had worried about a reprisal against its commercial ships after its military rescued the crew of the Samho Jewelry on Jan. 21, killing eight Somali pirates and capturing five.
Late Thursday night Korean time, Korean commandos dispatched to the ship by helicopter from the Choi Young destroyer found the crew safe inside its citadel around 15 hours after the ship’s owner, Hanjin Shipping, lost contact with it in the Indian Ocean.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff said the ship was fired on twice by pirates and the captain of the Hanjin Tianjin immediately sent out an emergency message over the Ship Security Alert System to Hanjin Shipping and ordered the ship’s engines stopped. The captain then locked himself and the other 19 crew members inside the citadel until they were rescued.
No pirates were seen either by the crew or the rescue team, but Gen. Lee Sung-ho of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a parliamentary session yesterday that the assailants were presumed to be 16 pirates, who fled before the rescuers arrived. Three bullets from automatic rifles and footprints of bare feet were found on the ship, presumably from the pirates. Another rifle bullet was found in front of the citadel. Signs that the pirates also tried to reactivate the engines were discovered on the ship’s bridge.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff said they immediately ordered the 4,500-ton Choi Young destroyer, of the antipiracy Cheonghae Unit based in the Indian Ocean, to move to the site after receiving an alert from Hanjin Shipping at 5:45 a.m.
But a Turkish warship 80 miles away was also alerted by the Korean military and gave crucial help in scaring away the pirates. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said the Turkish warship arrived at the scene at 8:36 a.m., and one of its helicopters flew over the Hanjin Tianjin and relayed information to the Korean side.
The destroyer got to the scene around 5 p.m., dispatched a helicopter and broadcast warnings to the pirates, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. It also fired 100 rounds from K-6 machine guns and six warship guns as warnings.
Then 16 commandos from the destroyer were sent on two boats to board the Hanjin Tianjin. Some of them had been on the Samho Jewelry rescue mission in January. “The cooperation with the allied Naval forces, and boosted confidence of the Cheonghae Unit after the Gulf of Aden operation [in January], helped bring this operation to a successful close,” said Kim Un-yong, an Army brigadier general.
On Feb. 24, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs made it compulsory for all commercial ships traveling through the Indian Ocean to have a citadel. Before that, a ministry official said only some large ships had citadels. It also required companies to install remote communication systems inside the citadels by September. The Hanjin Tianjin did not have remote communication systems in its citadel.
By Moon Gwang-lip [email@example.com]
한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
‘피난처’가 선원 20명 구했다
한진텐진호, 소말리아 해적에 납치될 뻔…“한국군 작전 우려해 도주”
최영함 급파, 선원들 안전 확인
한진해운 소속 컨테이너선 한진텐진호(7만5000t급)가 21일 인도양에서 납치를 노린 소말리아 해적의 공격을 받았으나 선원들이 긴급피난처(Citadel)로 피해 위기를 모면했다.
한진텐진호는 이날 오전 5시15분쯤(한국시간) 본사로 ‘구조 신호’를 보낸 뒤 연락이 두절됐다. 외교통상부 당국자는 “소말리아 해적들이 한진텐진호를 납치하기 위해 선박까지 올라갔으나 선원들이 선박 내 긴급피난처로 대피하자 우리 군의 작전을 우려해 배를 포기하고 도망간 것으로 보인다”고 말했다. 안전격실인 긴급피난처가 선원들을 살렸다는 얘기다. 합동참모본부 관계자는 “청해부대 최영함의 특수전여단(UDT/SEAL) 대원들이 이날 오후 6시33분 한진텐진호에 진입한 후 피난처를 확인한 결과 한국인 선원 14명과 인도네시아 선원 6명 모두 안전한 것을 확인했다”며 “배 위에서는 해적들의 것으로 보이는 AK-소총 실탄 3발과 맨발 자국 등이 남아 있었다”고 말했다.
한진텐진호는 이날 오전 스페인에서 수에즈 운하를 통과해 싱가포르로 운항하던 중 인도양 스코트라섬 동쪽 402㎞ 수역에서 연락이 두절됐다. 사고 접수 후 오만 살랄라항 남쪽 해역에서 임무를 수행 중이던 청해부대 최영함(4500t)이 출동해 21일 오후 4시30분 한진텐진호 인접 수역까지 근접했다. 합참 관계자는 “앞서 터키 군함의 도움으로 상황을 파악했고, 작전을 해도 우리 선원들의 안전이 확보될 수 있다고 판단해 선박 진입작전을 감행했다”고 말했다.
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