Piracy latest

All 32 crew members on board a luxury French yacht captured by Somali pirates at the weekend are alive and being well treated, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry reports.

The Le Ponant, a French charter yacht owned by one of France’s largest ship operators, was seized en route from the Seychelles to the Mediterranean. She was not carrying any passengers, but had a crew of 22 French sailors including 10 Ukrainian and Korean sailors.

‘According to the Embassy, the ship seized by pirates is still anchored off the south coast of Somali. The first communication with the pirates confirmed the crew are alive, in good health and are being well treated.’
The French authorities, who have made contact with the pirates, said they were prepared to pay a ransom. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has been quoted as saying: ‘The case is likely to be lengthy. It is important that our contact is fruitful and we must do everything to avoid bloodshed.’

A French frigate and a team of French commandos are reported to have been sent to the area to reinforce the group negotiating the hostages’ release. Earlier, a local fisherman said he saw the ship arriving at the northern town of Eyl, about 310 miles north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

The hijacking comes amid a surge in piracy in the seas off the chaotic Horn of Africa nation, where a weak and impoverished government is unable to patrol its territorial waters. Pirates have seized more than two dozen ships off the country’s coast in the past year, typically demanding high ransoms to free their hostages.

Some years ago Yachting Monthly readers entered a competition in which the prize was a week’s Caribbean cruise in Le Ponant.