September 25, 2008
Hijacked ship said to be carrying military cargo
Somali pirates may have gotten their hands on 30 Soviet-era T-72 tanks when they seized the Belize-flagged, Ukrainian-managed RO/RO carrier Faina on Thursday.
According to Russia's Interfax news agency, which quoted "informed sources, "the ship was transporting military hardware, including some 30 T-72 tanks and spare parts for armored vehicles."
According to AFP, Ukraine's foreign ministry said that reports on the nature of the cargo were being verified and that there were 21 people on board: 17 Ukrainians, three Russians and a Latvian.
AFP quotes Andrew Mwngura who runs the Kenya chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Program as saying the ship was sailing from the Baltics and was expected in Mombasa on September 27.
Adding some credibility to the tanks story is that the ship is a RO/RO carrier with stern ramp. Originally built in Sweden in 1978 as the Vallmo, it has since been through many hands, many flags and many names, including Matina, Loverval, and Marabou. In 2007 it was sold to Redrick Company, Belize, and became Faina.
According to the Equasis data base it is managed by Tomex of Odessa.
The ship's stern ramp is unlikely to have needed any particular strengthening to carry T-72's as one of the main characteristics of this tank is its extremely light weight of 41 tonnes.
In February of this year, the Kenyan authorities seized a shipment of 20 tanks that had been unloaded in Mombasa and that were reportedly headed for the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement.