Maersk Line vessel hijacked by Somali pirates

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Maersk Line has become the latest high profile target of Somali pirates after the 1,100teu boxship the Maersk Alabama was boarded and hijacked by pirates.

The US-operated vessel was seized in the Indian Ocean about 340 miles (500km) east of the capital, Mogadishu. Press reports suggested the vessel was carrying food aid for the World Food Programme.

The US flagged vessel has a crew of 20 US nationals and is owned and operated by Maersk Line in the US. The AP Moller-Maersk Group confirmed its ship had been “attacked by pirates and presumed hijacked” at around 0600 BST on Wednesday. Reports suggested the vessel had come under sustained attack, apparently lasting for up to five hours.

It said in a statement: “The vessel is deployed in Maersk Line’s East Africa service network and was enroute to Mombasa, when it was attacked approximately 500 kilometres off the Somalia coast. Our initial concern is to ensure proper support of the crew and assistance to their families.”

It throws into doubt industry claims that faster and higher-sided containerships are somehow safer from pirate attack. The length of the reported assault coupled with recent reports that a warship was inadvertently targeted in waters off Somalia would suggest that the pirates are getting even more desperate.

The Maersk Alabama is the sixth vessel to be seized within a week and the first with an all-American crew.