Cruising sailors wanting to pass between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean have always had a fail-safe option, that of having your yacht shipped through the dangerous pirate zone. However, with the hijacking of the German freighter the Beluga Nomination, which was carrying a shipment of yachts, that option now seems less than secure also.
The story of the hijacking of the Beluga Nomination reads like a novel so unbelievable you might put it down as being too far fetched.
The attack took place in the Indian Ocean, 390 nautical miles north of the Seychelles. The MV Beluga Nomination is an Antiguan and Bermudan flagged, German owned, general cargo vessel which was on passage from Malta to Port Victoria in the Seychelles at the time of the attack.
The nearest EU NAVFOR warship at the time of the attack was over 1000 Nm away and the remainder of the EUNAVFORs warships were even further away.
The crew holed up in a 'safe room' for several days, but the pirates finally gained access with a blow torch. In a botched rescue attempt one or more of the pirates was killed, so they killed a crew member in retribution. Others then escaped into one of the ship's lifeboats, a small, completely enclosed craft mounted on the stern of the 132-meter ship. They then activated the freefall lifeboat and catapulted it into the sea.
Two of those have been rescued by a Danish navy vessel, but two others are missing possibly drowned.
Now it appears that only the surviving pirates, the captain and two sailors are still on board. Since then the ship has been travelling towards Somalia, and then drifting when they had problems with fuel.
Advice for yachts:
The NATO Shipping Centre has this latest advice for yachts: 'The danger of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin is high and continues to increase. Naval forces strongly recommend that yachts do not transit this area. Merchant ships use Best Management Practices (BMP) to win time for the naval forces to assist them. With a low freeboard and slow speed, yachts are particularly vulnerable to pirate attack. Any direct response from naval assets will depend on the proximity to the incident and may not occur. 'BMP3 and the self protection measures described in them were not designed for cruising yachts nor will they be sufficient to prevent boardings by Somali pirates. '