Pirates hijacked a Spanish fishing vessel carrying a crew of 36 off the coast of Somalia.
Pirates hijacked a Spanish fishing vessel carrying a crew of 36 off the coast of Somalia, the ship"s owner and Spanish government said. Armed men were seen aboard the ship, which belongs to Echebastar Fleet SLU, by the crew of a plane from the European Union"s anti-piracy mission, said an official at the Basque regional administration"s fishing department who declined to be identified in line with policy. There has been no contact since the alarm was raised early today, according to a statement from the company, based in the province of Vizcaya.
The ship was seized 375 miles (603 kilometers) from Somalia and 415 miles from the Seychelles, the Basque official said. It was fishing outside the security corridor established by the EU"s anti-piracy mission, Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said at a televised news conference.
?The government"s priority is to preserve the safety of the crew,? she said, declining to give details on how the government planned to deal with the hijack. A crisis committee has been formed, made up of members of the government, the military and the intelligence service, she said.
The crew includes 16 Spaniards, eight Indonesians, four Ghanaians, three Senegalese and others from Ivory Coast, Madagascar and the Seychelles.
Pirates have attacked vessels off Somalia 146 times so far this year, with a surge in April and May, the U.S. Navy said on Sept. 29. A total of 28 ships have been seized, and pirates are holding four vessels for ransom.
The lack of a central government in Somalia has allowed pirates to operate out of lawless ports. Atalanta, the European Union"s first naval mission, has been patrolling Somalia"s coast since December, trying to control a surge in attacks in waters through which about a 10th of the world"s trade passes. Some 100 merchant ships a day transit the Gulf of Aden, a choke point leading to the Suez Canal.
The past three months have seen a drop in piracy because high monsoon winds kicked up waves that the pirates" light skiffs couldn"t handle.
?The weather is now back on the side of the pirates,? Rear Admiral Peter Hudson of Britain"s Royal Navy, Atalanta"s commander, said in an interview last month.
Atalanta has nine frigates off Somalia. There are between 25 and 30 warships off Somalia at any given time, including ships from a separate North Atlantic Treaty Organization fleet and one led by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.