News Blogmaritime piracy

Confusion around the seizure of Longchamp by pirates

(B2)The German ship seized last Thursday, the MV Longchamp, a liquid gas carrier (*) is causing a bit of controversy among shipowners and those responsible for the fight against piracy. The shipowner claims that the Longchamp was in the protected corridor and under protection of warships, as reported by my colleague Wiegold from Focus. The Europeans emphasize that they were not aware of a request for protection. In fact, apparently both could be right. According to an official from the Bahamas Maritime Authority, the ship was well within the safety corridor. But this corridor is in a way very wide. But Atalanta HQ, in Northwood, is a little less simple than we might like to say. The German company was well registered in the EUNAVFOR Atalanta base. But the journey had not been reported. However, as a manager at Atalanta HQ explains, it is the recording of the journey which is “essential for us” because it allows “know the route of the boat and assess the risk, give advice“, and for the ship of “ask for protection”. In fact, the Longchamp was to be accompanied by the… Indian navy. Apparently he didn't wait for the escort, or it was too far away. The fact remains that when the merchant ship made its distress call in the face of the pirate attack, it was already late. Despite a movement of boats and helicopters, the anti-piracy forces did not have time to prevent the capture. Two pirates were nevertheless injured during the exchange of gunfire.

A remark: this “confusion” is perhaps not unrelated to the “complex” status of the ship. Belonging to the German shipowner, Bernhard Schulte, the MV Lonchamp was leased to another company, registered in Liberia, and was under the flag of the Bahamas. A flag of “convenience”. By dint of jumping the border to escape stricter European legislation, we cannot then demand action from the State whose flag has left. I have the impression that shipowners suddenly remember their nationality when it comes to claiming protection but forget to check out and respect the obligations linked to their rights...


(*) Incidentally, let us note that this “liquid gas” solution is one of the areas of energy diversification that the European Union wishes to develop.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).