Longchamp ‘manager’ negotiates with Somali pirates

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The manager of a 3,200 cu m chemical carrier hijacked off the Somali coast has started negotiations with the pirates over the release of the vessel and it has received a photograph of the crew proving that they have so far been unharmed in the attack.

The Bahamas-flagged tanker Longchamp was seized in the Gulf of Aden in the early hours of Thursday, 29 January with a full cargo en route from Europe to the Far East. It has since reached the Somali coast where it is now believed to have anchored.

A spokesman from the Hamburg office of the manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement told SMI that negotiations with the pirates were ongoing but details could not be disclosed for fear of endangering the lives of the crew. He said his office had received a picture of the crew showing them in good health.

Meanwhile, German press reports suggested that a ransom demand of $6m had been made but the company refused to comment.

BS Shipmanagement claimed in an earlier statement that the master has confirmed via a brief telephone communication that the vessel has been boarded and was being taken to the Somali coast. No further communication with the vessel has been forthcoming.

“Obviously our primary concern is for the welfare of the crew onboard which consists of 13 persons, 12 of which are of Filipino nationality and one Indonesian national. We have informed families and offer all the support we can at this difficult time,” it said.

The Longchamp was transiting the designated security corridor through the Gulf of Aden along with a number of other vessels and an Indian warship when attacked. BS Shipmanagement added: “Vessel and crew security are our primary considerations, and the Longchamp had delayed transit of the corridor for some 16 hours in order to travel with a grouping of other vessels, and only proceeded having informed the UKMTO (the coordinating coalition force in the area) and our management office.

“Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement will continue to work closely with all parties concerned to bring this situation to a safe and timely conclusion. This latest incident services to highlight the grave threat faced by shipping in the area which persists despite the very positive efforts of the international naval forces operating in the Gulf of Aden.”