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MV Faina as observed from the guided-missile cruiser the USS Vella Gulf.
|Port of registry:||1978: Sweden
|Builder:||Lödöse Varv AB|
|Identification:||IMO number: 7419377|
|Class and type:||KM* L3|
|Displacement:||13,650 long tons (13,870 t)|
|Length:||152.5 m (500 ft 4 in) LBP|
|Beam:||18.01 m (59 ft 1 in) (moulded)|
|Draught:||6.72 m (22.0 ft)|
|Depth:||13.35 m (43.8 ft)|
|Propulsion:||2 × diesel engines|
|Speed:||17.0 knots (31.5 km/h; 19.6 mph)|
On 25 September 2008, the ship was captured by Somali pirates (allegedly under the orders of piracy kingpin Mohamed Abdi Hassan) in the twenty-sixth such attack in 2008. The Faina 's crew (at the time of capture) consisted of 17 Ukrainians, three Russians and one Latvian. On 28 September, Viktor Nikolsky, first mate on the Faina, said that Vladimir Kolobkov, the ship's Russian captain, had died from a hypertension-related stroke. On 5 February 2009 it was announced that a ransom of US $3.2 million had been paid to the pirates, and the ship was released the next day.
On 25 September 2008, the Faina was hijacked by approximately 50 Somali pirates calling themselves the Central Regional Coast Guard. The ship was allegedly heading to Mombasa, Kenya, from Ukraine with 33 Soviet-made T-72 tanks, weapons (including rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns) and ammunition on board, when it was seized. The pirates said they were unaware of the ship's cargo before they captured it. However, the pirates claim that documents found on board indicate that the arms cargo was destined for Juba, Southern Sudan, instead of Kenya, as originally understood. The claim was confirmed by U.S. Navy and several other intelligence groups, although the Kenyan government denies the allegation.
The pirates demanded a ransom and had threatened to blow up the ship, along with the pirates themselves and the ship's crew, if the ransom is not paid. The ransom amount was reported as US$35 million, US$20 million, US$8 million, and US$5 million in the weeks following the capture. The threat was later withdrawn. The pirates initially set a course for the pirate haven of Eyl, but instead anchored near the village of Hinbarwaqo after the U.S. Navy's Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Howard caught up to them. Supplies of fuel for electrical generation were accepted on board, and food and drinking water were later delivered to the ship.
The Howard engaged the Faina in pursuit within several hundred yards to stop the unloading of the cargo by the pirates. Later, the Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser Vella Gulf and other U.S. warships joined the Howard and surrounded the Faina with the Russian missile frigate Neustrashimy patrolling the Somali coast.
American helicopters and other aircraft have also been flying over the Faina. Warships from the U.S. Navy and other navies have blockaded the MV Faina in a port off Somalia's Indian Ocean coast. However, pirates wanted to unload small weapons from the cargo near Hinbarwaqo, even while warned not to do so by surrounding naval ships.
Three of the hijackers were reportedly killed during a gunfight between rival pirates. However, this report was denied by the pirates, instead saying that they were celebrating Eid ul-Fitr, and were "happy on the ship" and were "celebrating."
This incident and further hijackings, has renewed international efforts to stem Somalian piracy. On 7 October 2008, because of the rise in hijacks — besides the Faina, some eleven other vessels are hijacked — the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1838, which "calls upon all states interested in the security of maritime activities to take part actively in the fight against piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia, in particular by deploying naval vessels and military aircraft." NATO has authorized a force of frigates to patrol Somalia's waters, India has fired on a pirate ship, and the coast of Somalia will soon be blockaded by navies of many nations.
Puntland Minister of Fisheries Ahmed Said Aw-nur advocated storming the Faina with European or American commandos, saying, "[a] military operation has to be taken." On 1 October, Mohammed Jammer Ali, the acting Somalian Foreign Minister, said, "[t]he international community has permission to fight with the pirates." The Somalian insurgency group Al-Shabaab advised the pirates to "either burn down the ship and its arms or sink it" if the ransom was not paid.
On Tuesday, 9 December 2008, the pirates holding the ship and its crew hostage told the AFP that two of the hostages had tried to unsuccessfully revolt against the pirates the previous Monday. This revolt was put down shortly after, and the spokesman for the pirates reported that they would take "serious punitive measures" against the crewmembers. However, the account of the pirates concerning the revolt was disputed by Mikhail Voitenko, a writer for the Russian Sovfracht Maritime Bulletin, who called the story a "canard" and "threat" that was meant to cover for the capture of two of the pirates from the Faina who were heading for shore by American forces and the failed bid of the pirates to convince the intermediaries and the ship owner to speak to the Americans and gain the captured pirates' release.
On 5 February 2009 the MV Faina was released after being held captive for 5 months. The remaining crew of 20 were freed along with the ship and are reported by the Ukrainian presidency as being healthy and safe. A ransom of US$3,200,000 was paid on 4 February 2009 by the ship's mysterious owners. The pirates left the vessel early next day stating that the release had been delayed for one hour, but the ship was eventually released. The ship arrived to its destination, the Port of Mombasa, on 12 February 2009, where the cargo was unloaded. The body of the captain was taken to a local morgue awaiting a shipment to Russia.
An inquiry by the Kenyan parliamentary Defence and Foreign Relations Committee failed to determine the destination of the cargo. The chairman of the committee Adan Keynan criticised the Kenyan Ministry of Defense for noncooperation and secret-keeping.
A classified cable from the US Embassy in Kyiv on 9 November 2009, released through WikiLeaks, documents a meeting about the destination of the Faina's cargo stating "Van Diepen, regretting that the GOU [Government of Ukraine] had forced him to do so, showed the Ukrainians cleared satellite imagery of T-72 tanks unloaded in Kenya, transferred to railyards for onward shipment, and finally in South Sudan. This led to a commotion on the Ukrainian side." and concludes that "Nykonenko said that Ukraine would study this situation in the light of a partner relationship so hat(sic) the U.S. would know that Ukraine is a reliable partner."
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