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February 23, 2009

Pirates seize DryShips bulker

The latest ship to fall victim to Somali pirates is the DryShips, Inc.-owned, Maltese-flag 75,057 dwt capesize Saldhana, which was seized yesterday.

The hijacking was discovered when the ship, which had been in a protected shipping lane, showed up on the radar of HMS Northumberland heading directly towards Somalia.

According to the BBC's Jonah Fisher, who has been reporting from on board HMS Northumberland, the warship's helicopter was sent up to take a closer look while HMS Northumberland moved towards the Saldanha at top speed.

Two miles away radio contact was established.

According to Jonah Fisher, the Saldanha's captain reported that a "hostage situation" had developed, with the pirates issuing the demand that the warship stay away.

The captain of the Northumberland "was forced to watch as the Saldanha with its crew of 22 below deck drifted past the bridge windows and on towards the Horn of Africa."

According to Jonah Fisher's report, the mandate of the European Union taskforce--of which the Northumberland is part-- is to act as a deterrent and try and stop acts of piracy in process or about to take place. It does not have the mandate or capability to retake captured ships like the Saldanha.

It appears that the Saldanha was seized either at night or at first light about 60 miles (100 km) from the Northumberland's location.

With no alarm being sounded there was no chance of the Northumberland being able to act.

Fisher comments that "the brazen theft of the Saldanha ... illustrates the inevitable weaknesses that still exist when a handful of warships attempt to cover a million square miles of water."


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