Agreement reached for release of hijacked food aid ship in Somalia

Published on 08 August 2005

Nairobi - WFP announces an agreement with community leaders and Somalia\'s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to allow the release of a hijacked ship, its 10-member crew and its cargo of WFP food aid within days.

NAIROBI - The United Nations World Food Programme announced today an agreement with community leaders and Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to allow the release of a hijacked ship, its 10-member crew and its cargo of WFP food aid within days.

On Friday, a mission to Jowhar led by Kenyan Ambassador to Somalia Mohammed Abdi Affey and including WFP Somalia Country Director Robert Hauser with the support of the TFG led by Planning and International Cooperation Minister Abdirizak Osman (Jorile) agreed to the following:

  • Elders and community leaders on behalf of hijackers agreed to release the ship completely intact to go to the Somali port of El Maan within the next three days.
  • It was agreed that the food consignment would be handed over to the TFG in El Maan to be distributed to communities in central regions of Somalia.
  • Community elders and TFG representatives guaranteed that after the cargo was unloaded, the Semlow would be allowed to travel on without hindrance or threat.
  • Normal food distributions would continue as planned in central regions.

Upon its release, the MV Semlow, which was chartered by WFP and was hijacked by gunmen on 27 June off the Somali coast, would discharge the 850 metric tons of food aid donated by Japan and Germany at the northern Mogadishu Port of El Maan, and then return to its base in Mombasa, Kenya.

It would be the first time WFP and the Somali Transitional Government work together to coordinate food distributions to people already identified by the agency as in need. Some 50,000 Somalis are regularly assisted by WFP in the central regions of South Mudug and Galgadud. WFP's next scheduled distribution in those areas was to take place by the end of August.

WFP sent two shipments of food to Somalia in the last week to ensure that its operations in the country would continue and the hungry would not suffer because of the hijacking.

  • On the 4 August, 1,000 tons of food aid including 800 tons of rice, 149 tons of beans, and 52 tons of vegetable oil was offloaded in Berbera, Somaliland. An additional 1,850 metric tons consisting of 1,531 tons of rice, 100 tons of beans, 132 tons of a specially fortified food known as corn soya blend (CSB) and 86.5 tons of vegetable oil, will be offloaded from the same ship in Bossaso, Puntland in the next few days. This shipment will more than cover the original 850 tons of rice aboard the Semlow that was originally destined for 28,000 tsunami survivors in the Puntland region.
  • A second ship carrying 1,400 tons, including 1,090 tons of maize, 80 tons of beans, 70 tons of CSB and 160 tons of vegetable oil, will be offloaded in El Maan in the coming days.

"We are tremendously grateful to the Somali Transitional Federal Government and the Kenyan Ambassador for their combined efforts to ensure that the vessel, the food, and most importantly the ten-member crew who have suffered greatly during this ordeal will be released unconditionally," said WFP's Country Director Hauser.

Community leaders who participated in the negotiations included Suldan Ali Suldan Ahmed Noor, Hassan Hashi Mohamed -- the Deputy Governor of Mogadishu -- and Abdullahi Noor Shurie from the Adado District Administration.

In addition to the support of Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Osman, the Minister of State for Ports and Sea Transport, Mohamed Jama Mohamed (Furuh) represented the Transitional Federal Government.

Kenyan Ambassador Affey was joined by the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Kenya, Mohamed Kaleel Meelaub Keeran, and Colonel Nicholas Fulko Miti of the Tanzanian High Commission of Kenya in the talks. The crew consists of eight Kenyans, a Tanzanian engineer and a Sri Lankan captain.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 56 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP -- We Feed People.

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Rene McGuffin
WFP/Nairobi

Mob. +254-735-333-318

Said Warsame
WFP Somalia/Nairobi

Mob +254 735 337 723

Peter Smerdon
WFP/Nairobi

Mob. +254 733 528 911