- Somali pirates have announced US $8.2 million ransom demand for release of two Malaysian tankers and Japanese ship seized in the Gulf of Aden, off Somali coast last month, a maritime official said on Tuesday.
Pirates hijacking is rife in waters off East African coast with close to 10 ships hijacked only in August, making it the most dangerous shipping routes in the world.
Head of East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, Andrew Mwangura, said pirates wanted US $4,7million to release Bunga Melati 5 and its sister ship, Bunga Melati Dua, both owned by Malaysian national carrier MISC, adding that pirates are also demanding US $3,5-million to free MV Stella Maris, which was hijacked on 20 July.
There are also sparking fears that piracy could worsen, as ransoms are paid to pirates. In June Somali government official condemned ransoms payout saying they encourage more attacks as ships would be seized for money.
"We believe all three ships are near Eyl village, abandoned fishing base, where the pirates have the strong support of locals," Mr Mwangura said.
Somali officials said gunmen are believed to be holding at least six vessels for ransom near Eyl. In total, pirates are also said to be holding about 130 crew members hostage.
Pirates also want a US $1-million for a Nigerian tug-boat, MT Yenegoa Ocean, which was seized yesterday.
Last month Somali transitional government appealed for urgent intervention of United Nations to halt worsening ship hijackings off Somalia coast.
The Bunga Melati 5 was carrying 30 000 tonnes of petrochemicals to Singapore from Saudi Arabia when it was seized on Friday. It had 36 Malaysian and five Filipino crew on board, while Bunga Melati Dua was loaded with 32 000 tonnes of crude palm oil and was carrying 29 Malaysian and 10 Filipino sailors to Rotterdam from Indonesia when it was seized on 19 August.
MISC said it had been traveling within the vicinity of a Gulf of Aden security corridor that was set up last week, but that multinational forces had been unable to stop the hijacking.
Lawlessness onshore is spreading fast as Somalia collapses into worst fighting for nearly two decades. The chaos is fuelling a wave of piracy that increasingly threatens vessels in Gulf of Aden, one of the world's most important waterways.
International Maritime Bureau, which monitors shipping crime, said in April that 49 pirate attacks on ships were reported in the first three months of 2008, compared with 41 for the same period last year. It recorded 263 pirates attacks last year, up from 239 a year before and the first increase in three.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and foreign vessels are frequently seized for ransom by pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic weapons, making it difficult and expensive to deliver aid.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.