12 July 2005

Somalia: Vessel Hijack Threatens Food Supply to Somalia

Nairobi — More than 3,600 tonnes of relief supplies destined for Somalia is held up at Mombasa port following the suspension, by the World Food Programme (WFP), of humanitarian aid to the war-torn country.

Last week, WFP suspended shipment of such cargo to Somalia following the hijacking of a vessel it had chartered to ferry supplies for the country's tsunami victims.

WFP spokesperson Laura Melo told the Nation yesterday: "We have two vessels at the Mombasa port, which were supposed to take relief supplies to Somalia, but they cannot leave until the issue of the vessel and crew being held there is resolved."

She said one vessel was to take 850 tonnes of mixed relief supplies to the Puntland area, while the other was to ferry 2,800 tonnes to Somaliland and Puntland.

"We have stopped the shipment of humanitarian assistance to Somali because the safety of the crew and cargo is not guaranteed," she said.

Too great a threat

Recently, WFP Somalia country director Robert Hauser said that the hijacking of the UN-chartered vessel off the Somali coast had posed too great a threat to send further shipments.

"If there is a quick, favourable solution, we hope there will be no major interruption of WFP operations in the country," he said.

The UN agency gives 275,000 Somalis 3,000 tonnes of food every month.

Mv Semlow was hijacked late last month between Haradheere and Hobyo, 300km north of the capital Mogadishu, where it was still being held yesterday with 10 crew members - eight Kenyans, a Tanzanian and a Sri Lankan.

The vessel had been chartered from Motaku Shipping Agency in Mombasa and it was carrying more than 800 tonnes of rice.

In another development, high-level delegations of Somali elders and officials from the transitional government entered into negotiations with the militia holding the vessel, WFP said.

Ms Melo said they travelled to Haradheere District to speed up the release of food aid as well as the vessel.

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