The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs Wednesday confirmed that two Filipino seamen were among the abducted crew members of a Hong Kong vessel that was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday.
Foreign Affairs spokesperson Claro Cristobal said efforts are now underway to secure the safe release of the 22-man crew, including the Filipino crew members, of the MT Stolt Valor, Philippine TV GMA reported.
The latest hijacking brings to 53 the number of Filipino seamen currently held captive by Somali pirates in the Horn of Africa, according to the report. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has said that Filipino seafarers, who make up one-third of the world's maritime labor, are more prone to abductions than from any other country and has proposed to ban the nationals from working in piracy-affected areas.
The government has instructed the Philippine Embassy in Nairobiand the consulate general in Hong Kong to coordinate efforts to secure the safe release of the crew members with ship owners and international maritime authorities, Cristobal said.
On Tuesday, the East Africa Coordinator of Seafarers Assistance Program said the vessel was the 12th that have been hijacked in the pirate-infested waterway since July 20.
Maritime officials said the Hong Kong ship was sailing in a maritime security corridor in the gulf patrolled by an international coalition of warships and aircraft when it was attacked.
Pirates have stepped up attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden, as Somalia's current transitional government has failed to shackle the pirates in the key commercial shipping lane.
An international maritime organization has sounded the alarm over the upsurge of hijacking incidents on the Gulf of Aden.
The warning was issued by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) which has alerted all vessels to "maintain a strict 24 hour look out" as they pass through the Gulf of Aden, located off the coast of Somalia.
The Gulf of Aden, an important waterway for shipping, is within the Arabian Sea. It is between Yemen on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. It connects with the Red Sea through the Babel Mandeb strait in the northwest.