While Somali pirates demand $ 4.7millionMalaysian-Yemeni cooperation to release the two tankers [Archives:2008/1187/Front Page]

September 4 2008

By: Aqeel Al-Halali
For the Yemen Times

ADEN, September 1 ) Malaysia asked Yemen and Somalia to cooperate with it to release the two tankers hijacked last month in the Gulf of Aden near the Yemeni coast. To release the tankers, the Somali pirates demanded US $4.7 million.

A press release issued by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry and published by the Malaysian National News Agency, “Bernama,” said that Malaysia had asked for cooperation with Yemen and Somalia's foreign ministries. The Malaysian Foreign Ministry hoped the two partner countries would make an effort to guarantee the release of the Malaysian and Filipino crews who were in the two tankers belonging to MASC Limited Company and ensure the Malaysian boats will be safe in the Gulf of Aden. The two tankers were hijacked on the 19th and 29th of last month.

The statement revealed that Malaysia plans to suggest to other countries whose boats were subjected to similar incidents to report their problem to the United Nations. It said that Malaysia “formed a special unit to follow the issue of the Malaysian tankers hijacked in the Gulf of Aden.”

According to the Malaysian Foreign Ministry, the aim of forming such unit is to monitor the recent developments in the incident. The ministry said that the second tanker was hijacked while it was en route to Singapore from Saudi Arabia's Yanbu harbor while loaded with petrochemicals.

Yemeni security sources said last Monday that the Yemeni Coast Guard forces are searching for a ship for chemical transportation, adding that the Coast Guard received a message showing that the ship was hijacked in international waters off the Gulf of Aden.

The Manager of the East Africa Sailors Assistance Program said that the Somali pirates demand US$ 8.2 million to release the two Malaysian tankers and another tanker belonging to a Japanese company hijacked while sailing in the Gulf of Aden.

The Manager told Reuters that the pirates demand US $4.2 million to release the Malaysian tankers in addition to US $3.5 to release a Japanese ship hijacked this past June. He pointed out that the three ships are near the Somali village of Ail, where the pirates have strong local support from residents.

For its part, the Yemeni government agreed last Tuesday on a memorandum of understanding written by countries of the West Indian Ocean region, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea in regards to eradicating piracy and armed robbery of ships.

The government authorized Khalid Al-Wazir, the Minister of Transportation, to sign the memorandum and supervise preparations for the second regional meeting that is scheduled to be held in Sana'a late next month. In addition, the minister will also supervise the procedures of constructing the building of the Regional Center for Information Exchange, which will help fight against piracy and armed robbery of ships traveling in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

The Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden are considered to be the most dangerous of all the international waterways due to continuous civil war in Somalia since 1991 and the weakness of the interim government.

Since early this year, the African Horn and the Gulf of Aden regions witnessed the hijacking of 35 ships, tankers and yachts according to the Yemen Times' approximation, whereas 2007 there were 25 hijacking operations in 2007.

Yemeni economists warned that the Somali pirates that target international ships and commercial tankers in the African Horn and the Gulf of Aden will have a negative effect on the Yemeni economy, and demanded that security measures should be taken to maintain the national economic security.

The International Security Council has recently allowed military ships to enter Somali waters to combat pirates that target the African Horn and Aden gulf waters.