The Beluga Fortune is a German freighter that was seized by Somali pirates on Sunday. A scant 24 hours later, the pirates jumped ship and fled after the Beluga Fortune crew members locked themselves in a safe room and shut down the ship. Somalia’s lack of a functioning government has allowed piracy to flourish and attacks hit a five-year high in 2010.
Beluga Fortune beset by buccaneers
The Beluga Fortune was on its way from the United Arab Emirates to South Africa when Somali pirates attacked. The Associated Press reports that the pirates seized the ship about 1,200 miles east of Mombasa, Kenya. Reuters reports that when the pirates fired on the vessel, the freighter’s 16-man crew sent out a distress call and locked themselves in a panic room designed for protection from such an attack. From the room, the crew shut down the engines, cut off fuel and disabled the bridge.
Pirates peeved by panic room
Somali pirates have been frustrated by a panic room before, in September during the seizure of the German Freighter Magellan Star. Spiegal Online International reports that before American soldiers freed the ship just 22 hours after it was seized, the crew retreated to the safety room, a space selected to be hard to find and harder to break into. The room was stocked with food, drinks, medical equipment and supplies. The captain was in constant contact with the ship’s owners by satellite phone. It also had a secret emergency exit in case they needed to abandon ship. A spokesman for the Magellan Star’s owner told Spiegal “the pirates called our shipping company in desperation, wanting to know where the crew was.”
A snapshot of Somali piracy
Somali pirates have been a plague to shipping off the country’s coast since Somalia’s government collapsed in 1991. According to the European Union Naval force, Somali pirates are currently holding 19 ships and 428 hostages. The Strategy Page reports that Somali pirates carried out 44 percent of total pirate attacks in the last year. Since January, one crew member has been killed, and 27 have been injured. A total of 773 sailors have been held for ransom.