Pirates in the waters off the coast of Somalia Friday seized a French luxury liner called the Ponant. The liner was carrying no passengers, but 32 crew members were reported to be on board. The majority of the crew is reported to be French, with some personnel from Ukraine.
The Ponant, a 32-cabin yacht belonging to a subsidiary of French company CMA-CGM was in the Gulf of Aden during the incident. It sailed from the Seychelles and was headed for the Mediterranean Sea, from where it would have undertaken a cruise between Egypt and Malta. The triple-masted boat was “a victim of piracy during the early afternoon as it was sailing between Somalia and Yemen,“ declared the vessel’s captain Christophe Prazuck, a French military spokesman.
“This is an act of calculated piracy,” declared French PM François Fillon from Brussels. “We have military means in this relatively important zone. We are doing what we can to liberate the hostages as soon as possible, hopefully in the next few hours.”
French Minister of the Interior Hervé Morin declared that a helicopter “went to verify the situation and stated that it was an incident of piracy as indicated by the ship’s captain. The vessel is now being followed by an Aviso ship from the navy.”
The French government has initiated the “sea pirate plan”, that organises the “mobilisation of all resources available in the area”, the Prime Minister’s services specified.
One of the most dangerous seas in the world
“It is one of the most dangerous seas in the world in terms of piracy,” states Emmanuel Goujon, FRANCE 24 correspondent in Addis Ababa. “There have been more than 25 incidents.”
A group of organised pirates developed in Somalia by taking advantage of the chaos that has reigned in the country for more than 20 years.
“It’s a powerful sea mafia,” says Olivier Hallaoui from French maritime security company Secopex. “They have GPS systems, modern means of communication and heavy weapons.” However, according to commander Prazuck, no shots were fired during the attack on the Ponant.
With acts of piracy on the increase in Somalian waters, the International Maritime Office that manages the Anti-piracy Centre in Kuala-Lumpur has recommended ships to stay at least 200 nautical miles (370km) away from the coast.