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Hijacking of cargo ship near Oman triggers fresh fears

Seizure of a German-owned cargo ship - MV Charelle - off the eastern coast of Oman last Friday has triggered new fears of alleged Somali pirates ‘fishing’ in new and least expected waters.

Gulf News

Muscat: Seizure of a German-owned cargo ship - MV Charelle - off the eastern coast of Oman last Friday has triggered new fears of alleged Somali pirates ‘fishing' in new and least expected waters.

“The latest sea-jacking incident is cause for concern,'' M. C. Jose, General Manager Projects and Logistics Group, Khimji Ramdas Shipping, told Gulf News on Sunday.

He pointed out that the worry is that the alleged pirates sneaked through the intense surveillance of a number of Navies to reach off the eastern coast off Oman. “They are not expected in this area and that can also catch cargo ships unaware,'' he added.

Jose, who has over two and half decade of shipping experience in Oman, also expressed worry that the north-bound alleged pirates posed threat to commodity cargo ships. “We have movement of urea between Oman and India from Sur and also the LNG tankers and this poses a greater threat,'' he said, but reposed full faith in the security agencies in the country to tackle the problem as and if it reaches the Omani territorial waters.

The hijacking of MV Charelle, operated by Pentagon Freight Services LLC to and from Indian Ocean and Red Sea Ports, took place outside Oman's territorial waters.

According to United Nations Convention On The Law Of The Sea, every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines determined in accordance with this convention.

The sea jacking of MV Charelle took place 60 nautical miles off the eastern coastal town of Sur in Oman thus it was way outside Oman's territorial waters.

Oman's government news agency ONA, citing an informed source, stated that Oman's authorities had taken all measures to search for the hijacked vessel in Omani territorial waters. The source affirmed the Sultanate's constant endeavour to maintain safe navigation in Omani territorial waters and to ensure stability and security in the region.

Gary Kruger - Manager Pentagon Freight Services Oman LLC, who operate the cargo - refused to comment on the incident.

Inchcape Shipping Services are the agents for the people who have chartered the vessel but Jim Robb, General Manager ISS Oman, who is currently in Kuwait, said that they had no information about the ship.

However, he also expressed concern about the alleged pirates' daring to come all the way to Oman's eastern coast. “Seizure of ships in Gulf of Eden has been cause for concern for a long time and now they are moving this side, so it is something to worry about,'' said Robb while reposing full faith in the Royal Navy of Oman to tackle the issue successfully. “The RON and other authorities in Oman will react to best of their abilities,'' he hoped.

A diplomatic source confirmed the incident and pointed out to the intensive patrolling of Gulf of Eden by warships as the reason for the pirates spreading to this area in search of new targets.

The Gulf of Eden is patrolled by at least 12-15 warships from more than half a dozen countries and venturing out to vast Red Sea may not be such a good idea for the pirates, this the source believes they could keep moving northwards to Oman's coast.

The source, which preferred not to be identified, also raised another concern. “Without ground support it is difficult for these pirates to travel so far in their small boats, so if they are getting ground support somewhere then that's another factor to worry about,'' the source said.

“They need to stay in waters for more than ten days to reach from Somali costal town to east of Oman and for that they need enough ration and water supply,'' he pointed out the reason for suspecting ground support.

He also cautioned that success of one set of pirates could embolden others to strike in the area less patrolled than the Gulf of Eden.

“Probably they have over fished in Gulf of Eden therefore, they are looking at newer areas,'' the source said.