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U.S. NAVY PHOTOGRAPH

U.S. Navy photograph by by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael R. McCormick shot yesterday shows what appears to be a double drop of ransom money near Faina. Pirates did not leave hijacked ship until some 24 hours after photograph was taken.

Feb 5, 2009

Faina prepares to sail for Mombasa

The Pentagon has confirmed that pirates today released the Ukrainian ship Faina, which they had held for ransom along with its 21-member crew and cargo of Soviet-era tanks and other weaponry since hijacking the vessel off the coast of Somalia in September.

And in a press briefing in Kiev, Mykola Malomuzh, head of the Ukrainian Foreign Intelligence Service confirmed that the pirates had left the ship.

"The ransom was delivered the day before yesterday in uneasy conditions," he also said.

The ship's crew was released unharmed, and the U.S. military is monitoring the situation, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

U.S. authorities were not concerned that the military equipment aboard the Faina was to be delivered to Kenya, a U.S. ally in the region, officials said. In fact, the Kenyan government announced recently that it would try pirates captured by the U.S. military.

The key Pentagon concern in the days after the Faina's hijacking was that the ship's cargo could be sold to terrorists.

According to the Russian website edited by journalist Mikhail Voitenko, who in the past has acted as a spokesman for the Faina's owner, Vadim Alperin, the last group of pirates left the vessel at 20.30 Moscow time. Preliminary information on the health of the crew is that none requires hospitalization. The ship will now be refueled and will head for Mombasa, Kenya, escorted by a U.S. warship. Because of heavy fouling it will make low speed and is expected to arrive in Mombasa, February 9.


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