Monday, 14 June 2010

The strange hijack of the MV RIM

Mumbai, June 10 Radio Netherlands reported three days ago that Dutch naval technicians say now that the MV RIM has been so badly damaged that it is a wreck. The country’s HNLMS Johan de Witt, part of ‘Operation Atlanta’, had gone to the assistance of the RIM’s crew after the ship was abandoned ‘at the request of the Master’. The crew is to be taken to Djibouti.

There are hugely conflicting reports about the ownership, crew nationality, cargo- and seemingly everything else- of this vessel; we suspect that the truth, as in the Arctic Sea hijacked in Europe last year, will never be known. The mysterious 4800 tonne general cargo ship MV RIM was seized by pirates on February 2 in the Gulf of Aden while on a passage from Eriteria to presumably Yemen- and eventually destined for a scrap yard in India. Initial reports suggested she was inside the security corridor at the time; these were suspiciously contradicted later. There are persistent rumours that she was carrying weapons for Yemeni rebels at the time she was taken.

Ecoterra reported that the ship was “North-Korean-flagged, originally Libyan owned general cargo vessel” that had a Syrian crew. Radio Netherlands tells us now that the crew nationality is unknown, but they are ‘possibly Romanian’. The coalition ship USS PORTER confirmed that the RIM had been hijacked.

The ship is still shown in official records as owned by White Sea Shipping of Tripoli in Libya, while in reality it was allegedly sold to another company for her last voyage with a cargo of clay.

The ship was first taken by the Somalis to LasKorey off the Gulf of Aden where it was fired upon by Puntland forces. She then sailed around the tip of the Horn of Africa to Garacad, later being shifted to an anchorage 5 miles off Kulub. The pirates threatened

to kill the Master if a $3million ransom was not paid. This, for a ship carrying clay and bound for the scrap yard, is a ridiculously high ransom, and gives credence to those arms trafficking rumours.

This Hollywood potboiler does not end there, though. Ecoterra reported, early this month, that “During a serious shoot-out between two rival pirate groups surrounding the sea-jacked MV RIM, leaving 9 Somalis dead, the Syrian crew of the vessel managed to overpower six pirates on board and to sail free. Maritime observers working with ECOTERRA Intl. reported that the crew is said to be all right and that the six Somalis are kept on board as captives”.

Four days later, the crew abandoned the vessel at the “request” of the Master. Strange words to use. We always thought that abandoning a ship was on the Captain’s orders.

Given geopolitics, we also think that there is much more than meets the eye here. An ex Libyan, now North Korean ship is hijacked and held for four months. Crew are probably Syrian. Different pirate groups seem to battle over it, and, in fact, kill each other for it. The crew then mysteriously takes over the ship after “overpowering” armed men, later abandoning the vessel. A 4800 tonne piece of scrap carrying a cargo of clay commands a ransom demand of 3 million dollars. We also wonder if those Somalis allegedly held on board by the crew of the RIM abandoned it as well, whether they were ‘requested’ to do so, and what tales they may have to tell.

The story sounds fantastic even without the North Korean, Libyan or Syrian connections. With those- and Chinese proximity to North Korea- in the mix, the tale becomes almost sinister.


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