Other ships avoided the ship's calls for help for fear it was a pirate trick to lure them into danger. But the 180-metre-long MS Dorian responded to the Ile D'Anjouan's distress calls after consulting the International Maritime Bureau in London to determine whether the call was authentic.
“It's noteworthy that the MS Dorian was outside the pirate risk area on its way to Zanzibar, while the position of the sinking passenger ship was in the ‘dangerous' zone,” the Hamburg shipping company spokesman said.
The Liberia-flagged container ship was some 20 miles east of Zanzibar when it changed its course and reached the sinking 41.5-metre ship in four hours. Despite high waves, the ship's captain managed to save four children, 11 women, 32 men and 28 crewmembers – though one crewmember was killed when he became trapped between the two ships.
“It was no luxury ship,” he said. “We assume that it was a local vessel that travels between an island and the mainland.”
The boat's origin is still unknown, but the spokesman said it had a water leak that was likely the cause of its distress.
Meanwhile the DBwV German Armed Forces Federation called on Friday for a tougher approach on piracy off the eastern coast of Africa, saying current international operations were too tentative.
“We aren't managing to engage the mother ships and free those that have been captured,” DBwV head Ulrich Kirsch Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, adding that the pirates operate like businesses and are investing more money in better weapons and larger ships.
Christian Social Union (CSU) security policy expert Hans-Peter Uhl went as far as saying the pirate ships should be sunk by German military forces.
“With pirate attacks there can only be one answer,” Uhl told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Friday. “The pirate ships must be promptly sunk on the high seas,” he said, adding that other responses just make Germany a laughing stock, given that the European Union anti-pirate mission “Atalanta” expressly allows the use of force.
The waters off the eastern coast of Africa, particularly near Somalia, have become increasingly dangerous over the last year, with pirates attacking more than 130 ships.
Under the European anti-pirate operation started December 2008, the German navy has twice captured pirates off the coast of Somalia. Nine were caught by the frigate Rheinland-Pfalz in March as they attempted to hijack a ship. They were sent to Kenya for trial.
Meanwhile in early April, pirates seized a Danish-owned and US-flagged ship off Somalia with 20 American crewmembers on board, the US Navy said. It was the sixth maritime hijacking in five days.