The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed on Saturday an earlier report that four Filipino seafarers were among the crew members seized when a Danish owned-cargo ship, believed to be carrying weapons, was attacked by suspected Somali terrorists in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday.
In a release, the DFA said the report was confirmed by the local manning agency that deployed the seafarers to the ship Leopard.
“Leopard, a 2,000-ton ship believed to be carrying ‘sensitive’ cargo, was boarded in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Oman. Two other Danish crew members were also seized,” the DFA said.
The ship, later located by the Turkish navy, was abandoned by the pirates, the DFA said quoting reports.
The DFA said the local manning agency, which the department did not name, has already informed the families of the four seafarers of the incident.
According to the DFA, the latest incidents bring to 113 the number of Filipino seafarers onboard eleven vessels held captive by pirates.
An earlier report by the shipping news site Tradewinds said the crew members of Leopard may have possibly been abducted by the pirates.
The report added the pirates moved the seafarer to Taiwanese shipping vessel Shiuh Fu No. 1, seized December last year, and left Leopard behind, a major departure from the Somali pirates’ usual modus operandi.
Tradewinds believes Leopard may have been carrying weapons. It added ships operated by Shipcraft, the Leopard’s Danish operator, routinely carry nuclear items, but it has yet to be determined if Leopard had such items on board.
“The Philippine government has undertaken measures to minimize the exposure of Filipino seafarers to piracy attacks, including making arrangements with ship principals and manning agencies for vessels to travel along a safety corridor which is patrolled by friendly foreign navies,” the DFA said.
It added it has also raised the issue of maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean before the United Nations and other international organizations.
An earlier release by the United Filipino Seafarers said that in the year 2010, they recorded over 700 seafarers who were victims of piracy around the Horn of Africa in 243 incidents of piracy, of which at least 202 were staged by Somali pirates.
Globally, the piracy scourge off the coast of Somalia has affected 28 vessels and 654 hostages, according to the European Union Naval Force.
Of 1.2 million estimated seafarers worldwide, around one-fourth or more than 300,000 are Filipinos, the Apostleship of the Sea, a UK-based advocacy group, said.
Since Somalia descended into civil war in 1991, piracy off the Somali coast has been a threat to international shipping.
Poverty is widespread in Somalia, with millions depending on food aid. In 2008, the World Bank reported as much as 73 percent of the population lived on a daily income below $2.—JV, GMANews.TV