French frigate deters pirate attack attempt off Tanzanian coasts: captain

09:00, May 27, 2010      

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A French surveillance frigate under the European naval force Atlanta has deterred an attack attempt by suspected pirates off the Tanzanian coasts against a merchant vessel bearing Cypriot flag, Captain of the French frigate announced on Wednesday.

Commander Guillaume Fontarensky made the remarks at a press conference held at the European Union (EU) delegation in Tanzania, noting that the incident took place on early Tuesday when the frigate Nivose approached the port of Dar es Salaam where she had to make stopover.

The frigate received a call for help of the merchant vessel Nord Neptuna 58 nautical miles (about 107.4 km) in the north of the position of Nivose, which indicated to be attacked by presumed pirates, Fontarensky told reporters.

The frigate then immeidately diverted to carry assistance and sent a helicopter Panther, which deterred the pirates to pursue their boarding attempt onto Nord Neptuna and the attack was thwarted after the merchant vessel informed Nivose at 0400H GMT ( 0700 am local time), the French captain added.

The Panther then tried to stop the flight of the skiffs of presumed pirates by numerous shootings, however, the skiffs of the aggressors, which included respectively four or five persons on board, separated and then escaped near the island of Pema by melting away in fishermen's numerous present boats, as the incident location was exactly between the islands of Unguja and Pemba of the Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar, according to Fontarensky.

The Tanzanian authorities were warned of the entry of the skiffs of presumed pirates in their territorial waters, where the Nivose, as the other ships contributing to the operation Atlanta, cannot intervene, according to the press release by the EUNAVFOR Atlanta frigate of surveillance Nivose.

It is one of the first times that a merchant vessel becomes under the direct threat of an attempt of hijacking next to the Tanzanian territorial waters, which shows that Somali pirates can operate further and further from their coasts, the press release noted.

Answering questions from Xinhua, the French captain said the frigate was "obliged to intervene" in the pirates attack attempts to fulfill its mission to fight against piracy.

On international cooperation to fight against piracy, he elaborated that EU naval forces exchange information through internet websites to know the ongoing operations against pirate attacks.

For his part, French ambassador to Tanzania Jacques Champagne de Labriolle, who was also present at the press conference, stressed the importance of judicial treatment of Somali pirates, calling for the establishment of a regional or international court on piracy to prosecute pirates as well as consensus building in fighting against piracy.

Tim Clarke, head of the EU Delegation in Tanzania, said that there is close links among diplomatic envoys in Dar es Salaam on the issue of fighting against piracy with the aim to build capacity and find a long-term solution to the issue with strong system built inside Somalia.

Piracy has an adverse impact on the region's imports and exports that are routed through the Somalia coast, and this has been a serious threat to global trade.

The rate of attacks in January and February 2009 was about 10 times higher than during the same period in 2008 and there have since been almost daily attacks.

Most of these attacks occur in the Gulf of Aden but Somali pirates have been increasing their range of destruction and have started attacking ships as far south as off the coast of Kenya in the Indian Ocean.

Source: Xinhua


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