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Shipping: Piracy

Volume 718: debated on Tuesday 9 March 2010


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what were the numbers and descriptions, including nationalities and ages, of hostages rescued by Royal Navy ships undertaking anti-piracy operations off Somalia since October 2008; what were the circumstances and locations of their release; and what actions were taken against their captors. [HL2105]

Since October 2008, Royal Navy units have carried out compliant boardings on three suspected pirate vessels operating off the coast of Somalia where hostages were subsequently found on board. In all three cases the hostages were released following the Royal Navy's intervention.

In November 2008, HMS “Cumberland” boarded a Yemeni vessel 60 nautical miles south of the Yemeni coast, which had been hijacked by suspected Somali pirates. Six Yemeni hostages were released and returned to Yemen. The eight suspect pirates were transferred to the Kenyan authorities for prosecution and are currently on trial.

A further two boardings took place within Somali territorial waters in April and October 2009, resulting in the release of all hostages: 11 Yemenis, two Tanzanians and one Somali Tanzanian. Following detailed analysis of evidence, the suspects were also released because it was assessed by legal advisers that the likelihood of a successful prosecution in a regional state was low. This was, in part, due to a lack of clear evidence, an unwillingness of hostages to give evidence in a regional court and the fact that Somalia has jurisdiction over Somali territorial waters, so a transfer to Kenya or any other regional state could not take place. The UK, however, continues to encourage other regional countries to accept suspected pirates, in line with its commitments under the Djibouti code of conduct.

Ages and further details of individual hostages are not recorded, so this information cannot be provided.