Somali pirates hijack American yacht on decade-long round-the-world trip

 
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BRUSSELS: Somali pirates on Friday hijacked a sailing yacht carrying four American tourists, two of whom are on a decade-long "around-the-world" trip, according to piracy watchdog Ecoterra International.

Ecoterra, which is run by volunteers from in and outside Somalia, said the S/V Quest was seized on Friday afternoon about 240 nautical miles (444 kilometers) off the coast of Oman. "[Sailing yacht] Quest was attacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean and the four Americans on board are being held hostage," the watchdog said.

According to the S/V Quest's website, www.svquest.com, the owners of the vessel are on an "around-the-world" trip that began in mid-December 2004. "This is planned to be an eight or ten year voyage," the website's homepage said, which identifies the owners as Scott Underwood Adam and Jean Savage Adam.

"The sailing yacht was reportedly now en route from India to Mina Raysut, the industrial port of Salalah, Oman," Ecoterra said. The last update on Sunday said the yacht was in Mumbai. "All is well on Quest," the couple wrote.

The European Union Naval Force: Somalia (EUNAVFOR) was not immediately able to confirm that the S/V Quest had been hijacked by pirates. Ecoterra has blamed EUNAVFOR for mostly only monitoring high-value vessels.

"Currently many yachts are waiting for a safe opportunity to do the passage from the Indian Ocean into the Mediterranean Sea through the Gulf of Aden, termed now the pirate alley, because the navies have persistently refused to safeguard or escort these ships," Ecoterra said.

Meanwhile, also on Friday, EUNAVFOR confirmed that the Yemeni fishing vessel Alfardous was seized by Somali pirates on Sunday. "The vessel has a reported crew of 8, nationalities presently not known," a spokesperson said. "There is no further information on the condition of the crew."

With the hijackings of the Alfardous and the Quest included, Somali pirates are currently holding at least 32 vessels and 698 hostages off the coast of Somalia, according to EUNAVFOR. Ecoterra, however, claims that pirates are holding at least 51 vessels and 819 hostages.

Most hijackings usually end without casualties when a ransom has been paid. This, however, often takes many months. The longest current hijacking, according to EUNAVFOR, is the Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1 which was hijacked on March 29, 2010 with 24 crew members.

In recent years, Somali pirates have hijacked hundreds of ships, taking in hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom. Ships are patrolling the shipping lanes near Somalia in an effort to reduce hijackings, but the anti-piracy force has warned that attacks are likely to continue.

According to a recent study, maritime piracy cost the global economy up to $12 billion last year, with Somalia-based pirates responsible for 95 percent of the costs.

(BNO NEWS )

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