Fishing vessel FV WIN FAR 161 and her crew were freed today after a relatively small ransom was received by the pirates, marine monitors working with ECOTERRA International reported.
The 56 m long, 696 GRT Taiwanese long-liner with the registration CT7-0485 and call-sign BI-2485 was seized on April 6, 2009 near the Seychelles.
The sea-jacked Catamaran SY SERENITY was used to capture the Taiwanese fishing vessel.
The tuna long-liner had been observed earlier to fish illegally in Somali waters but after the sea-jacking was also involved in first trying to capture another longliner of the same fleet, which used the Seychelles as starting point for their transshipments of caught tuna, and then in the piracy attack on MV MAERSK ALABAMA.
Though Taiwan foreign affairs spokesperson Henry Chen refuted the report, the vessel had been used also for further attacks later.
Nightmare for Crew
The crew of 30 (17 Filipinos, six Indonesians, five Chinese and two Taiwanese) was left by the shipowner and their respective governments in an awful condition despite the pleading of a humanitarian organization to at least provide relief food and water. Unfortunately not all 30 crew-members will be able to re-unite with their families since 3 sailors (2 Indonesians and one Chinese) already died during the 10 month horror-ordeal.
Inconsiderate Poacher Owner
The ship’s skipper and first engineer are Taiwanese nationals and the 700-ton long-liner is apparently owned by HSIEN LUNG YIN of Kaohsiung City, Taiwan and operated under the management of WIN UNI MARINE by the Taiwanese company WIN JYI FISHERY CO. LTD. (WIN FAR FISHERY GROUP /Xiamen ) from KAOHSIUNG, which regularly sent their vessels into Somali waters from the Seychelles – a key transshipment point for poached tuna from the Indian Ocean to Japan.
This group of notorious fish-poachers are also linked to another group, whose ships use the names FV TAWARIQ 1-4. One of their vessels was impounded by Tanzanian authorities for illegal fishing in the Tanzanian EEZ and the crew is still being held in Tanzanian prsions. One Kenyan crew-member recently died under mysterious circumstances.
Taiwan is not a party to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and their agreements and thereby feels not bound by its regulations. Selon Edward Huang, the general secretary of the Taiwanese Association of Tuna exporters will not comment on the case.
The Government of the Philippines only after eight month found the manning agency, who lured the 17 Pinoy sailors into the fish-poaching operation. The company is STEP UP MARINE from Singapore and is infamous for recruiting innocent crews for all sorts of clandestine missions.
Armed response damaged the vessel when it attacked a naval cargo ship but it was able to return to Garacad, where it was moored about 7 nautical miles from the beach at the north-eastern Indian Ocean coast, for a long time. She first had lost all her oil but that was replaced with help from the sea-jacked Theresa VIII and though limping, she was able to sail again for a short while to Hobyo and Harardheere on the Central Indian Ocean coast of Somalia. The vessel was moored on the heavy anchor obtained from the former sea-jacked hostage, the MV Hansa Stavanger.
The Idonesian government stepped up efforts to push the Taiwanese and Chinese governments as well as the owner to come to terms, when it was feared that the owner might want to abandon the ship and crew and to just cash the insurance in full.
The vessel was at last held five nautical miles off Garacad and the group holding it finally got a new interpreter for proper negotiations, while the ransom demand had been reduced significantly.
Fears that the vessel might be recaptured are minimal, though the vessel has almost no fuel left, but since a U.S. warship is only 45 nautical miles away, the Taiwanese vessel may receive naval assistance. It is expected the crew will be questioned concerning the involvement of the vessel in the MV MAERSK ALABAMA case.
Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesman Henry Chen confirmed that the Win Far 161 was released today, Thursday, and the boat and its crew are on their way home. He did not say how many crew were on board and how much ransom was paid.
The most serious horror case on the Somali coast therefore seems to be over. Villagers in Garacad reported that all the money received was immediately taken by the shop-keepers and others to whom the pirate group was indebted.
The good news is that an alleged plan to receive some money from the owner and to then sink the vessel with the consent of the owner, did not happen. The alleged plan was for him to cash the insurance, sell the crew later for another ransom, and use the sailors as slaves on other vessels.
Ecoterra says the pirates received the cash, then released the vessel and crew and paid their debtors. The organisation suspects the pirates will undertake a new mission within a few days.
Ecoterra said “This kind of piracy with impunity can only be stopped by properly developing coastal communities.”
ECOTERRA International is the Global Society for ECOlogy and sound ECOnomy, an independent, international civil society organisation, registered as a non-governmental organisation (NGO), working as humanitarian agency and in development.