Preparations defeated the piratesA Korean container vessel with 20 sailors on board escaped a potential hijacking attempt by Somali pirates through quick action and self-protection.
The 75,000-ton Hanjin Tianjin signaled an SOS to both the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs and the headquarters of Hanjin Shipping in Seoul last Thursday when it came under attack by pirates at sea 250 miles off a Yemeni island on its way from Spain to Singapore.
But the pirates’ attempt to kidnap the container ship - apparently for ransom in return for their release - ended in failure. Immediately after the attack, the captain of the ship stopped the engine and had all 12 Koreans and eight Indonesians hide in a bullet-proof citadel inside the ship, all according to the manual drawn up since the pirates’ attempt to hijack the Samho Jewelry freighter in February and an earlier seizure of the Samho Dream.
Pirates eventually gave up their hijacking attempt and abandoned the ship before Korean antipiracy destroyer Choi Young arrived on the scene 14 hours later. The crew and the ship were safely guarded so they could return home.
Since the deadly rescue mission of the Samho Jewelry in January, the government has obligated all ships traveling in the pirate-prone zone of the Indian Ocean to install stronger citadels on board and strengthen other security facility regulations.
The Hanjin Tianjin set sail under the new order and the crew underwent emergency drills under the newly distributed manual. The crew of the Samho Jewelry also hid in a safe room but it had not been strong enough to withstand the pirates’ attack. Hanjin Tianjin, however, could have precipitated a rescue mission had it been equipped with satellite communications system within the citadel.
Hijacking attempts by Somali pirates are becoming bolder and more frequent. There were 142 cases during the first three months of the year, a whopping 35 percent increase from the same period last year. Korean ships and vessels with Korean nationals on board have also come under increasing danger with eight hijacks already recorded since 2006.
Along with international antipiracy campaigns and efforts, individual ships passing through the dangerous sea route should toughen their protective and precautionary measures. Hanjin Tianjin’s story underscores well the importance of thorough self-protective measures and exercise.