Faina could dock next week

February 6, 2009 12:00 am

, MOMBASA, Kenya, Feb 6 — The Ukrainian vessel freed by Somali pirates with a crew of 20 and cargo of battle tanks is expected to dock in Mombasa next week, a maritime source said on Friday.

"It is expected to sail out today… That ship hasn’t moved in a while and I would expect it to move slowly, under escort, it could take up to four days," said Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Association.

The ship, the MV Faina, was released on Thursday after 134 days of captivity.

According to sources close to the negotiations that led to the Faina’s release, it did not have enough fuel to reach the Kenyan port and needed to refuel before it could resume its journey to its initial destination.

The Ukrainian presidency and leaders for the Somali hijackers announced the Faina’s release early Thursday but a last-minute disagreement over the sharing of the ransom reportedly delayed the Faina’s full release by a few hours.

The final release was eventually confirmed late Thursday by the US navy, which said it had "maintained a 24-hour, 7-day a week presence within visual range of the ship" since it was seized in the Indian Ocean on September 25.

The Bahrain-based US naval forces central command also said in its statement that the US navy was "expected to provide humanitarian assistance to the ship and her crew."

The Faina’s captain died of what appeared to be a heart attack two days after the vessel was captured and the remaining crew of 17 Ukrainians, two Russians and one Latvian were kept hostage in difficult conditions, with limited food supplies.

The Faina is carrying a controversial cargo of 33 Soviet-era battle tanks as well as other weaponry. Kenya says the shipment is destined for its armed forces but several other sources have revealed that the government of South Sudan was the real final recipient.

Meanwhile, Turkey announced plans to dispatch a warship to the Gulf of Aden to join an international coalition against Somali pirates in the region, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said on Friday.

"We have decided that this would be an important positive step towards ensuring security in the region," Babacan told reporters, adding that the government had asked parliament to authorise the mission.

The minister explained that a frigate would be sent under UN Security Council resolutions authorising countries to take measures to suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery in the region.

"This will not be an individual mission but rather one in which Turkey will be part of a naval force including a number of countries," he said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said last month the Security Council could explore the possibility of setting up a maritime task force or adding to current anti-piracy operations "a quick reaction component."


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