This was inevitable:
Somali pirates hijacked a U.S.-flagged, Danish-owned container ship on Wednesday with 20 American crew on board in a major escalation in attacks at sea off the Horn of Africa nation, officials said.
Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, told Reuters the 17,000 tonne Maersk Alabama had been seized off Mogadishu far out in the Indian Ocean, but all its crew were believed to be unharmed.
Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk confirmed that the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama had been attacked by pirates about 500 km (300 miles) off Somalia and had probably been hijacked. The company said it had 20 American crew on board.
A spokesman for the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) in Nairobi told Reuters that among the vessel’s cargo were 232 containers of WFP relief food destined for Somalia and Uganda.
Piracy off the cost of Somalia has been a threat to international shipping in the Gulf of Aden since early 1990s, over the last several years the pirates have become more aggressive and have started attacking shipping well outside the Gulf of Aden. The question now is how will the Obama Administration react to the hijacking of an U.S. flagged vessel with 20 American citizens aboard in international waters? Will they negotiate or will they respond forcefully?
My personal view is that it’s time to take aggressive action and send the message that attacks on merchant shipping in international waters are not going to be tolerated any longer.
Update (1:30 p.m.): The AP is reporting that the crew Maersk Alabama may be back in control of the ship, one pirate is rumored to be in custody… Shipping company spokesman says the crew is safe but will not confirm that they’ve regained control of the ship.
Update (2:15 p.m.): The AP is reporting that pirates are still holding the ship’s captain hostage, negotiations for his release are ongoing.
Update (4:30 p.m.): U.S. Warships headed for scene of hijacking, The U.S. S. Bainbridge (DDG-96) and at least six other vessels are reportedly headed for the area were the Maersk Alabama was hijacked.
- Pirates Seize U.S.-Flagged Ship – Wall Street Journal
- Somali pirates seize US cargo ship with 20 Americans on board – Telegraph
- Mass. Maritime Grads, Crew Overtake Pirates – TheBostonChannel.com
- Somali pirates seize American ship, crew – Hot Air
- Obama’s pirate problem – Michelle Malkin
- US Merchant Ship Captured By Somali Pirates? – Blackfive