Citadel breached by pirates
The pirate seizure last week of the multi- purpose heavy-lift project carrier ‘Beluga Nomination’ soon after the Danish weapons ship ‘Leopard’ was taken two weeks ago will undoubtedly make the industry worry that its ‘citadel’ strategy is no longer working. The Leopard was not taken to Somalia, but its crew of six were kidnapped from the citadel and taken off the vessel; the Beluga Nomination was hijacked after the pirates breached its citadel apparently two and a half days after the crew locked themselves in. The ship was en route from Malta to Masan in South Korea when it was hijacked.
The German owners of the Beluga Nomination have expressed frustration that no military help reached ship’s crew for so long after a distress call had been sent to EUNAVFOR. The crew of 12 consists of Polish, Filipino, Russian and Ukrainian nationals. "We are somewhat irritated," Beluga head Niels Stolberg said. "Why, within 2 1/2 days during which the crew had hidden from the pirates in the citadel, could no external help be offered? Had no serviceable units been at disposal?"
The Beluga Nomination was attacked by a skiff that fired on the vessel on January 22 with small arms fire. According to EU NAVFOR, the 9775 Dwt Antigua and Barbuda registered Nomination was 390 miles north of the Seychelles at the time, though other reports, including from the owners, suggest that she may have been up to 800 miles off the islands at the time. The crew had locked themselves into a citadel when the pirates boarded; EU NAVFOR stressed later that the use of a citadel by crewmembers does not guarantee a military response from them. In its defence, EU NAVFOR also says that the closest warship to the Nomination was a thousand nautical miles away waiting to escort a World Food Programme (WFP) vessel delivering vital humanitarian aid to Somalia, which is EUNAVFOR’s primary task. The Seychelles coast guard, although closer, could not assist due to bad weather, it says. In any case, there was four days of uncertainty for the Bremen based owners before it was confirmed, by a plane flying overhead, that the Nomination had been taken and was en route for Somalia.
Beluga says that it is spending millions of Euros annually in defensive security equipment, rising insurance costs and crew anti piracy training, while in Germany there is just theoretical discussion about securing German vessels against the rising number of pirate attacks. Analysts say that the strongly worded statement from Beluga shipping underlines the frustration of owners as they operate in an ever-widening area of risk in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. The fact that the EU NAVFOR warship was waiting for the WFP vessel meant that she could have proceeded at full speed to the Nomination’s rescue, they point out. It seems that it took two and a half days before the pirates could breach the citadel on board; the warship could well have been close enough to launch a helicopter and rescue the crew before the citadel was breached.