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Ship Hijacking to Force Relief Agency to Step Up Somalia Food Deliveries over Land

A Kenyan ship hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia on Sunday remains anchored near a town in the semi-autonomous Puntland region. The MV Rozen had just dropped off its 18-hundred-ton cargo of emergency food supplies in two northeastern ports and was heading back to its base in Mombasa, Kenya to pick up deliveries for Southern Somalia. With the decline of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union, an upsurge in piracy is expected to delay drought and flood relief shipments at a critical time. UN World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman Stephanie Savariaud says the kidnappings will force the agency to step up Somalia deliveries by land until officials better understand what is happening on the high seas.

“It’s going to be more difficult to have contractors that agree to go for these deliveries because this can have an impact on security conditions for them. So this will definitely slow down delivery of food by sea and it is a crucial problem because Somalia doesn’t need to be cut off from food aid at the moment,” she said.

Resorting to more costly, less efficient land route deliveries through Kenya is one option the WFP is considering. Spokeswoman Savariaud says that the top priority is to ensure the safe return of the ship and its crew of six Kenyans and six Sri Lankans.

“It has been a day since the ship has been hijacked and a priority at the moment is to do everything we can to make sure that we have contacted everybody to locate the boat and help to release it and to release the crew unharmed. We are monitoring the situation, seeing how the security in the area is going on. But at the moment, our priority is to make sure this ship is going to be released,” she said.

Two of the Rozen’s sister ships in the WFP-chartered fleet were hijacked in 2005, and the Rozen survived an unsuccessful ambush last year. Savariaud says it’s difficult to know whether or not the latest hijacking was a premeditated attack on a familiar target.

“Nothing says it’s the same people who tried to take it. It’s not in the same part of Somalia. The last time, it was in the south. This time, it’s in the north. We don’t know if it’s the same people. We don’t know if they were after the same boat,” she said.

A US Navy warship in the region is keeping watch on the situation from afar, since the MV Rozen is not in international waters. Meanwhile, the WFP says it has also contacted officials of Somalia’s Transitional Government (TFG), authorities in Puntland, and with coalition forces based in Djibouti to help track the internment.