Accord reached for release of hijacked UN food aid ship in Somalia

8 August 2005

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced an agreement with local leaders and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) for the release of an agency-chartered ship, its 10-member crew and its cargo after it was hijacked off the coast six weeks ago while bringing aid to tsunami victims.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced an agreement with local leaders and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) for the release of an agency-chartered ship, its 10-member crew and its cargo after it was hijacked off the coast six weeks ago while bringing aid to tsunami victims.

“We are tremendously grateful to the Somali Transitional Federal Government and the Kenyan Ambassador for their combined efforts to ensure that the vessel, the food, and most importantly the 10-member crew who have suffered greatly during this ordeal will be released unconditionally,” WFP Country Director Robert Hauser said.

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines-registered MV Semlow, with 850 tons of rice on board, was hijacked by gunmen on 27 June about 300 kilometres north-east of the capital Mogadishu, some 60 kilometres off the coast, while en route from Mombasa, Kenya, to Puntland in the north. The company hiring the boat indicated the pirates were asking for a $500,000 ransom.

Upon its release, expected within days, the Semlow will discharge the 850 tons of food aid donated by Japan and Germany at the northern Mogadishu Port of El Maan, and then return to Mombasa, WFP said. The hijacking was the first time in the agency’s history that a ship carrying relief food was commandeered.

Under the accord, reached on Friday, elders and community leaders on behalf of hijackers agreed to release the ship intact to go to El Maan within the next three days. It was also agreed that the food would be handed over to the TFG for distribution to communities in central regions of Somalia.

It will be the first time WFP and the STG have worked together to coordinate food distributions to people already identified by the agency as in need. Some 50,000 Somalis are regularly assisted by WFP in the central regions of South Mudug and Galgadud. WFP’s next scheduled distribution in those areas was to take place by the end of August.

WFP sent two shipments of food to Somalia in the last week to ensure that its operations would continue and the hungry would not suffer because of the hijacking. One shipment of 1,000 tons was offloaded in Berbera, Somaliland, in the north. An additional 1,850 tons are to be offloaded from the same ship in Puntland, in the next few days, more than covering the Semlow’s 850 tons of rice that was originally destined for 28,000 survivors of last december’s Indian Ocean tsunami.

A second ship carrying 1,400 tons will be offloaded in El Maan in the coming days.

In all, WFP assists some 275,000 Somalis with 3,000 tons of food each month.

 

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