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Thursday, September 22, 2011

MV Pacific Express attacked and set on fire by Pirates - rescued by NATO

The 1997 built container vessel MV Pacific Express is in new for wrong reasons !

The vessel is described as a ‘Gearless Cellular Container vesel’.   Geared ships are those equipped with their own derricks or cranes for cargo operations and the gearless vessels do not have such equipment of their own.  They will depend on shore-based equipment at the Port of call for loading and discharging. 

There were reports that on 20th Sept 2011, the vessel was hijacked but there are also contradicting reports that the vessel avoided the pirates and continued her voyage to Mombasa.  Reports suggest that the vessel was  attacked  by Somali skiffs at position closer to Mombasa.  The pirates fired at the vessel even as the Master tried to prevent the Somali pirates from getting on board and trying to gain control.   The armed pirates’ attack came at approx 180 nautical miles east off Mombasa, Kenya. 

It appears that fortunately, the alert and messages were picaked by a RO-RO cargo vessel MV Joly Corallo which relayed it to naval ships. 

There are also reports that NATO intercepted and secured the vessel  Pacific Express IMO 8009454, dwt 22597, built 1981, flag Cyprus, manager Cyprus Maritime Co., Athens. Crew presumably 26: 25 Filipinos and 1 Ukrainian. Cargo 3300 mt of steel bar and coil.   The vessel reportedly is now safe but is partly on fire arising out of the acts of pirates. 

The succour to the ship came through NATO - Allied Command Operations.   The NATO Headquarters, in Brussels, Belgium, is the political headquarters of the Alliance and the permanent home of the North Atlantic Council, NATO's senior political decision-making body.

Its web has a message that  NATO's counter piracy flag ship, Italian Ship (ITS) Andrea Doria, rescued the crew of M/V Pacific Express, 180 nautical miles off the coast of Kenya. M/V Pacific Express had reported being under pirate attack on September 20, 2011.   ITS Andrea Doria responded to the distress call and closed in on M/V Pacific Express during the night of September 20. After evaluating the situation, the NATO warship assessed that pirates were no longer on board. As heavy smoke was coming out of the M/V, ITS Andrea Doria decided to send a boarding team to evacuate the crew and rescued all 26 crewmembers (25 Filipinos and 1 Ukrainian) who had locked themselves inside the safety zone of the merchant ship.

According to the crew, the fire was the result of the pirates' attempts to force them out of their confinement. They also reported hearing gun shots and possibly a RPG being fired during their time in the safety zone. They suffered no injuries and are now being transferred to Mombasa.

ITS Andrea Doria has been engaged in Operation "Ocean Shield" to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia under the command of Rear Admiral Gualtiero Mattesi since June 14, 2011.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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