UPDATE 2 (2012-12-19): Garowe Online reports that the situation is complicated:
BOSSASO, Somalia Dec 19 2012 (Garowe Online) – An impounded North Korean ship captured dumping cement into Puntland waters last month, was hijacked and is heading back to Bossaso port, Garowe Online reports.
Security forces guarding the North Korean-flagged vessel MV Daesan impounded on Nov. 17, 2012, at the Bossaso port were involved in the hijacking of the ship and the crew on the vessel late Tuesday night.
According to local sources, after a work shift change a team of 8 soldiers decided to hijack the ship and its crew of 33. After hijacking the ship and traveling for some hours and faced incidents the hijackers argued amongst themselves because some members argued over their decision.
The sources said that after the sequence of extraordinary events some of the men regretted the hijacking.
Continuing, the sources said that after heated debates and negotiations done by Puntland authorities, the rogue security forces decided to return the ship to Puntland authorities and contacted Puntland security officials of their decision.
Puntland security officials told GO, that there are two Puntland coast guard boats chaperoning the MV Daesan back into Puntland waters where the case over the dumping of cement is still ongoing at the local court.
Puntland authorities caught the MV Daesan while it was dumping 5,000 metric tons of cement 13 nautical miles east of Bossaso coast. According to authorities the ship is expected at Bossaso port Thursday morning and the case will continue in court.
Puntland authorities told GO that they are conducting an investigation of the hijacking Tuesday night and there are leads that suggest Somali pirates were involved in the attempted hijacking.
Puntland officials have also been engaged in a standoff with pirates off the coast of Gara’ad town in Mudug region since Dec. 10. Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) attempted to rescue the 22 hostages of the MV Iceberg 1 vessel last week and Puntland forces have enforced a blockade on the ship.
According to Puntland security sources, the MV Daesan hijacking was a diversion plot by Somali pirates to ease pressure off the MV Iceberg 1 vessel, which remains under a blockade for the past 10 days.
UPDATE 1 (2012-12-19): Nearly a month after reports surfaced that Puntland had captured the North Korean ship M.V Daesan, it appears that the ship has been hijacked by the very individuals who were guarding it on the beach. According to Reuters:
A dozen soldiers guarding a North Korean ship impounded in Somalia’s autonomous Puntland region for maritime violations have hijacked the vessel and its 33 crew, government and naval sources said on Wednesday.
MV Daesan, a North Korean ship ferrying cement to Somali capital Mogadishu, was impounded and fined last month by Puntland authorities who accused it of ditching its cargo off Somalia’s coast.
The ship dumped the cement into the ocean because it had been rejected by importers in Mogadishu, who claimed that the cement was wet and unusable, authorities said.
However, a government source told Reuters a dozen soldiers guarding the vessel hijacked it on Tuesday night. It was now at sea, destination unknown.
A naval source at the port of Bosasso, near where the ship lay seized over the past month, confirmed the claim.
“The government is preparing troops to rescue the ship,” the naval source said.
ORIGINAL POST (2012-11-19): I have previously blogged about DPRK ships being intercepted by Somali pirates. See here (2010-2-9), here (2010-3-16), here (2010-3-31), here (2010-6-7), and here (2010-10-25).
It has been a couple of years, but some DPRK citizens seem to be in trouble with the Somalis again. According to NK News:
Somalia’s semi-autonomous regional administration of Puntland has impounded a North Korean vessel for discharging cement at sea, two years after a group of Somali pirates captured a North Korean cargo ship, Radio Gaalkacyo reported Sunday.
A press statement issued by the quasi-government of Puntland has confirmed that security forces impounded a North Korea-Flagged vessel, M.V. Daesan, for dumping materials, including cement, near the coast of the Puntland port city of Bossaso, the radio adds.
According to Radio Gaalkacyo, the DPRK flagged vessel was seized 13 nautical miles east of Bossaso as it was in the process of unloading some 5,000 metric tonnes of cement. Allegedly the M.V. Daesan was carrying cement which was headed to Mogadishu but was refused by the businessmen because it had been spoiled by a water leakage. According to local sources, the businessmen were given a full refund for the spoiled goods.
The Puntland authorities have condemned the illegal and environmentally destructive practice by the ship-owners. A source at Radio Gaalkacyo added that the ship and its crew will be arraigned in court soon.
Its not the first time the M.V. Daesan has been in the news, with the boat’s crew being involved in a rescue by Oman’s naval forces while near to the Suez canal this summer.
Back then the Oman navy reported the North Korean crew’s surprise at being offered help:
“We told him that of the 33 people on board the vessel, we could accommodate half and start repairing the vessel, or take all the crew and come back to port. One of the crew actually asked us how much we would charge for the rescue, but this is a humanitarian act and lives were at stake. There can be no cost to that.”
And nor is it the first time that North Korea has been in the news near Somalia. It was reported last year that Somali pirates have been holding the crew of the North Korean cargo ship Chilsanbong Cheonnyeonho since it was captured on March 31 2010. Nearly two years on, its not known what ever happened to that ship.
With no records found at maritime insurance tracker Seasearcher, the possibility that the crew may have been simply abandoned by DPRK authorities has become evermore likely.