Maritime security officials have confirmed that MV Leila, built in 1973, was hijacked by Somali pirates last week. The International Maritime Bureau reports that the vessel was captured off Oman. The roll on/roll off cargo ship is owned and operated by UAE shipping company, New Port Cargo & Shipping. The captured ship is believed to have anywhere from 15-24 crew members onboard.
Local pirates confirmed the hijacking, saying that the attackers contacted friends back in the Somalia region speaking about a new vessel that they successfully captured. They also stated that it was a Panama-flagged ship with 24 people onboard.
It is also being reported that the pirates may have just needed help repairing their own ship, resulting in this hijacking. The shipping company that owns MV Leila hope their crew and vessel will be set free, as the cargo owner is also Somali and can conduct negotiations, according to The National. The crew remains unharmed and has been in contact via satellite phone. The dozen or so pirate assailants are demanding spare parts and vessel repairs.
It is still unclear whether the ship is headed towards its intended destination, which is a Somali port, or to the town where the pirates came from. The cargo onboard included vehicles, building materials, and other goods. The MV Leila, one of two ships owned by New Port, had made deliveries to Somalia for nine years and never been hijacked. In 2010, the MV Leila remained stuck in Berbera port for months pending a legal disagreement between the shipowner and local businessmen.
A second ship owned by a UAE-based firm, the MV Savina-Fahad, is also said to have been hijacked this week. According to the Somalia Report, the vessel was seized in the Indian Ocean while carrying charcoal from the Somali town of Kismaayo. EU Navfor said it could not verify the news of the MV Savina-Fahad, but that the MV Leila had been confirmed as pirated last Friday. Six other ships and 191 other seafarers remain in captivity, EU Navfor said in an update.