Beluga piracy ordeal ends in tragedy

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Following its capture by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean on 22nd January, the heavy lift vessel Beluga Nomination has been the setting of tragedy as Bremen-based owner Beluga Shipping has reported the death of one crew member and expressed grave concern for the Master and six fellow crew members who remain hostage.

In a company statement, Beluga confirmed the deceased seafarer was the victim of gun fire and expressed ‘shock’, ‘deep sorrow and grief’ over the ‘gruesome circumstances’ onboard. Though four seafarers escaped the pirates using a freefall lifeboat, two remain missing. Referring to the incident as a ‘crisis situation’, Beluga has also highlighted a lack of official support and competent rescue operations, noting how in addition to the Seychelles Coast Guard, NATO and the EU have failed in their mission to retrieve the crew safely, with operations which have ‘entirely malfunctioned’.

Questions have been raised concerning the slow response of a qualified team, since no initiative of this kind was launched within 24 hours of the vessel’s initial distress call. Beluga has also expressed anger that no aircraft or external activities were made during the crucial first 48 hours of capture, while the crew remained safely enclosed in the ship’s citadel, prior to the pirates gaining access and holding the seafarers hostage.

Beluga complained over a lack of effective communications from NATO and said if the company had not received information directly from the Danish warship who recovered the two seafarer escapees, it is thought no official updates would have been submitted to Beluga concerning the location of these seafarers.

As Beluga awaits further news on the welfare of the hostages, the vessel is anchored close to the Somali coast at Haradhere. No ransom demand has been made by the pirates so far.