18 Dec 2008

Somali piracy attempt foiled

9:06 am on 18 December 2008

A multilateral force has rescued a Chinese ship from Somali pirates.

A Kenyan maritime group said the crew of the seized Chinese boat Zhenhua 4 locked themselves in their cabins and radioed for help.

Chinese state media said a "multilateral" force with helicopters hovered over the ship and successfully fought off the pirates.

It was one of four vessels seized by pirates on Tuesday, the same day the United Nations Security Council took a strong stand against the attacks and authorised countries to pursue the gunmen on land.

Rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia this year has earned gunmen millions of dollars in ransom, hiked shipping insurance costs and caused international alarm.

The seizures have prompted some of the world's biggest shipping firms to switch routes from the Suez Canal and send cargo vessels around southern Africa instead, which could push up the cost of commodities and manufactured goods.

Foreign navies have rushed to patrol shipping lanes off Somalia but have had little impact so far on the pirates who mostly operate out of the north of the country.

Nearly 400 people and 19 ships are being held along the coast, including a Saudi supertanker with two million barrels of oil and a Ukrainian cargo ship with 33 tanks.