TALLINN - On Nov. 7 pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia hijacked a Danish owned freighter whose 13-strong crew included five individuals linked to Estonia.
According to Clipper Group 's the Copenhagen based owners of the cargo vessel CEC Future 's the hijacked ship's crew included the holder of an Estonian alien's passport and four Russians with Estonian residence permits. The Estonian Foreign Ministry has confirmed the information.
"According to the latest news there are no Estonians onboard of MV CEC Future. There is one person with un-defined citizenship and four crewmembers related to Estonia through permanent residency," Kersti Luha, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Baltic Times.
Luha informed The Baltic Times that Estonia was concerned about the well-being of its residents and intends to apply measures, in conjunction with the EU, to resolve the hostage situation.
"As the situation continues to be worrying Estonia continues monitoring the situation on Somalia's coast. Estonia, in cooperation with the other member states of the European Union and also third countries, is taking steps to solve the situation," Luha said.
Similarly Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Paet expressed the ministry's intentions to protect its residents, regardless of their citizenship status.
"The homes of five members of the ship's crew are in Estonia, and that is what determines the planning of our activity. On the part of the Foreign Ministry Estonia's wish is to act as quickly as possible," Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said.
Monday Nov. 10 saw the launch of a collaborative EU anti-pirate security mission on the Somali coast. The mission involves a seven-strong fleet including three destroyers and has been granted air support.
Yet according to Estonian Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo Estonia will neither be participating in nor financing the mission, prompting speculation over Estonia's claims to be assisting the hostages.
The Foreign Ministry has, however, stressed that it is providing consular assistance to the hostages and their families in cooperation with the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian embassy in Tallinn, and is currently in talks with Clipper Group about what steps are to be taken next.
The hijacking is the second such incident this year, as on May 28 Somali pirates commandeered a German freighter, whose first mate was an Estonian citizen, before releasing the crew on July 8 for a ransom of $750,000 (9.2 million kroons). Following the incident Estonia raised the issue of rampant piracy on the Somali coast, which has seen 83 pirate attacks so far this year, with both the EU and NATO.
The 1994 built CEC Future was en route from the Mediterranean to Malaysia with a full cargo of steel, according to statements from maritime portals.
The crew has been allowed to contact their families and have reported that they are being treated well. There has so far been no information about a ransom demand.