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Indian Ocean Explorer live-aboard : Hijacked !

Posted by Scuba Herald on Apr 3rd, 2009 and filed under Scuba Industry. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Indian Ocean Explorer live-aboard : Hijacked !

The Indian Ocean Explorer live-aboard scuba diving tourist boat popular with British diving enthusiasts carrying a crew of seven has been boarded by Somali pirates near the Seychelles, hundreds of miles from the hijackers’ lair on the East African coast.

The Indian Ocean Explorer had just dropped her passengers on Assumption Island when she was attacked, according to Kirk Green, director of Aquatours, the London-based tour operator that books diving trips on the yacht.

He said that the Royal Navy had e-mailed to tell him that the vessel had been hijacked and would be taken to Harardhere, a pirate stronghold north of Mogadishu. He had been told to expect that she would be held about three months.

“Obviously one of the feelings we have is relief because none of our clients were taken,” Mr Green said. “But on the other hand, we are extremely concerned about our crew.”

All seven crew members were from the Seychelles, he added.

The attack happened last weekend, according to the US Navy, but news of it has only just come to light.

Somali pirates have turned swaths of the Indian Ocean into no-go areas for unescorted ships over the past year but the latest attacks suggest that they are venturing further afield — about 630 miles from their bases — to evade an international flotilla of warships.

In November the Sirius Star, a Saudi-owned oil tanker, was hijacked 520 miles off the Kenyan coast, a dramatic illustration of how the pirates are flouting the campaign against them.

“We believe the vessel is heading north towards Somalia,” said Andrew Mwangura, who monitors piracy for the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme in Mombasa, Kenya. “Maybe they are shifting in order to pull military escorts away from the Gulf of Aden, so they can go back to attacking shipping there.”

The Indian Ocean Explorer was built to operate as an oceanographic survey ship in the North Sea before being kitted out as a cruiser specialising in diving trips around the Seychelles and Madagascar.

The vessel makes only a handful of voyages each year for up to 12 passengers willing to pay to swim with whale sharks and green turtles. Mr Green said that she was registered in Panama and had been recently sold, but could not confirm the identity or nationality of the new owners.

The Seychelles coral archipelago offers some of the best diving in the world and its pristine beaches lure thousands of tourists each year. Now the islands’ Government is deploying security forces to its outer islands after the latest incident, the second such hijacking in a month.

“Our forces are ready for any eventualities,” said Brigadier Leopold Payet, the islands’ military chief.

The number and success rate of pirate attacks has declined slightly this year, thanks to unfavourable seas and a greater foreign naval presence in the Gulf of Aden. Somali pirates attacked more than 130 merchant ships in the gulf and the Indian Ocean last year, according to the International Maritime Bureau, a sharp increase on previous years.

On Tuesday Japan joined the US, China and EU states in patrolling shipping lanes leading to the Suez Canal. They face a daunting task trying to protect 400,000 square miles of sea from the fast-moving pirate skiffs. Two European-owned tankers were seized within 24 hours last month and are heading to Somali coastal havens.

“I don’t understand why the countries involved don’t just go down there and sort it out once and for all,” Mr Green said.

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4 Responses for “Indian Ocean Explorer live-aboard : Hijacked !”

  1. naroma says:

    I wish someone could help my brother and his crews to come back home…I been very hard for me to read about the story when i’m very far away and could do anything…I wish they do something..Sorry for says that i wish all the tourists were aboard so that he could get the help faster ..please help him ..his loving sister naroma

  2. NPA says:

    It is ofcourse always sad when something like this happens. I did a fly fishing trip last year with Indian Ocean Explorer, and had another trip planed this year. Naroma – I’m deeply hurt by the situation and the fact that neither international press or goverments have written anything about this or trying to help, is yet another proof of the “rascism” and “class system” that still rules our world. And it is most likely so that if all the tourist would have been aboard the shop during the hijack, it would probably have been something that we would have known even here in Sweden. But at the same time, wishing that the tourist would have been onboard the I.O.E. during the hijack seems really strange to me. Anyway, hope for the best and that your brother and the rest of the crew will make it alright.

  3. Philipp says:

    According to the scuba-diving specialised TO Abyss, crew members have been freed in june. The Indian Ocean Explorer was then set on fire by the pirates.
    September 09 expeditions to Bassas de India have been cancelled.

  4. pinkie says:

    If true, I’m glad the crew was released.
    If true, I’m sad the IOE was set on fire…She was a fine ship on which my family and I spent a week

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