MV Faina (Ukrainian: Фаїна) was a roll-on/roll-off cargo ship operated by a Ukrainian company that sailed under a Belize flag of convenience,[3][4][5] owned by Panama City-based Waterlux AG, and managed by Tomex Team of Odessa, Ukraine.[1]

MV Faina as observed from the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf
MV Faina as observed from the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf.
  • 1978: Vallmo[2]
  • 1983: Matina
  • 1985: Loverval
  • 2003: Marabou
  • 2007: Faina
OwnerWaterlux AG[1]
OperatorTomex Team[1]
Port of registry
  • 1978: Sweden Sweden
  • 1991: Luxembourg Luxembourg
  • 1996: Panama Panama
  • (unknown): Belize Belize
BuilderLödöse Varv AB
Yard number179
Launched21 December 1977[2]
CompletedMay 1978[2]
IdentificationIMO number7419377[1]
FateScrapped Chittagong 6 December 2014[2]
General characteristics
Class and typeKM* L3
Tonnage10,931 GT
Displacement13,650 long tons (13,870 t)
Length152.5 m (500 ft 4 in) LBP
Beam18.01 m (59 ft 1 in) (moulded)
Draught6.72 m (22.0 ft)
Depth13.35 m (43.8 ft)
Propulsion2 × diesel engines[2]
Speed17.0 knots (31.5 km/h; 19.6 mph)[2]

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.[6][7] 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.[8][9][10] 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.[11]


A photograph taken on board USS Howard showing Somali pirates in small boats after hijacking MV Faina.
The crew of MV Faina stands on the deck after a U.S. Navy request to check on their health and welfare.

On 25 September 2008, the Faina was hijacked[12] by approximately 50 Somali pirates[6][13] calling themselves the Central Regional Coast Guard.[14] 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)[6] and ammunition on board, when it was seized.[15] The pirates said they were unaware of the ship's cargo before they captured it.[16] 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.[3] The claim was confirmed by U.S. Navy and several other intelligence groups, although the Kenyan government denies the allegation.[17]

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 was not paid.[8][18] 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.[19][20][21] The threat was later withdrawn.[22] 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.[23] Supplies of fuel for electrical generation were accepted on board, and food and drinking water were later delivered to the ship.[24]

The Howard engaged the Faina in pursuit within several hundred yards to stop the unloading of the cargo by the pirates.[3][25] 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.[8][17][26][27]

American helicopters[28] and other aircraft flew over the Faina.[29] Warships from the U.S. Navy and other navies blockaded the MV Faina in a port off Somalia's Indian Ocean coast.[30] However, pirates wanted to unload small weapons from the cargo near Hinbarwaqo, even while warned not to do so by surrounding naval ships.[31]

Three of the hijackers were reportedly killed during a gunfight between rival pirates.[32] This report was denied by the pirates, who said that they were celebrating Eid ul-Fitr, and were "happy on the ship" and were "celebrating",[10] but a US defence official said that the military believed three people had been killed in the row on the ship, which has been under close surveillance.[33]

International reactionsEdit

Russia, Somalia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and NATO cooperated to try to recover the ship.[8] Kenya said that it would refuse to cooperate or negotiate with the pirates.[8][34]

This incident and further hijackings renewed international efforts to stem Somali piracy. On 7 October 2008, because of the rise in hijackings—besides the Faina, some eleven other vessels were 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."[35] NATO authorized a force of frigates to patrol Somalia's waters, India fired on a pirate ship, and the coast of Somalia was to 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."[9] On 1 October, Mohammed Jammer Ali, the acting Somali Foreign Minister, said, "[t]he international community has permission to fight with the pirates."[36] The Somali 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.[37]

Hostage revoltEdit

On Tuesday, 9 December 2008, the pirates holding the ship and its crew hostage told the AFP that two of the hostages had unsuccessfully tried to 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.[38] 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 by American forces of two of the pirates from the Faina who were heading for shore, 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.[39][40]


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 were 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 the next day, stating that the release had been delayed for one hour, but the ship was eventually released.[11] The ship arrived at its destination, the Port of Mombasa, on 12 February 2009, where the cargo was unloaded.[41]

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 Defence for non-cooperation and secret-keeping.[42]

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."[43]



  1. ^ a b c d "FAINA: Ship info". Equasis. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Vallmo". Miramar Ship Index. R.B.Haworth. Retrieved 7 October 2008.
  3. ^ a b c "Confusion looms over ownership of seized Ukrainian military cargo". Xinhua News Agency. 29 September 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  4. ^ "Faina". Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  5. ^ Center for Investigative Reporting (January 2004). "Hiding behind the flag". Frontline World. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  6. ^ a b c "Pirates call all the shots". Sunday Herald. Archived from the original on 1 October 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  7. ^ James Bridger (4 November 2013). "The Rise of Fall of Somalia's Pirate King". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Pirates Demand Ransom Of Millions". Sky News. 28 September 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  9. ^ a b Gettleman, Jeffrey (28 September 2008). "Tensions Rise Over Ship Hijacked Off Somalia". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  10. ^ a b Hassan, Mohamed Olad (30 September 2008). "Pirates say they celebrated Muslim holiday on ship". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 3 October 2008. Retrieved 30 September 2008.
  11. ^ a b "Somali pirates 'free arms ship'". BBC News. 5 February 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  12. ^ "Faina - september 25th, 2008 - Hinbarwaqo, Somalia". Coordination maree noire. 25 October 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2008.
  13. ^ Wadhams, Nick (26 September 2008). "Somali Pirates' Unexpected Booty: Russian Tanks". Time. Archived from the original on 27 September 2008. Retrieved 28 September 2008.
  14. ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey (30 September 2008). "Q. & A. With a Pirate: "We Just Want the Money"". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  15. ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey (26 September 2008). "Somalia Pirates Capture Tanks and Global Notice". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2008.
  16. ^ "Pirates' spokesman: We want money, not arms". Detroit Free Press. 30 September 2008. Archived from the original on 2 October 2008. Retrieved 1 October 2008.
  17. ^ a b Mohamed Olad Hassan (3 October 2008). "Hijackers off Somalia show no sign of giving up". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 5 October 2008. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  18. ^ "Pirates threaten to blow up ship". BBC. 10 October 2008. Retrieved 11 October 2008.
  19. ^ "US destroyer guardsship [sic] seized by pirates". The Independent. 29 September 2008. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  20. ^ "Somali pirate says ransom reduced". Associated Press. 7 October 2008. Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2008.
  21. ^ "Somali pirates demand $5 mln ransom for Ukrainian ship crew". RIA Novosti. 1 November 2008. Retrieved 1 November 2008.
  22. ^ "Somali pirates drop threat, resume negotiations". CNN. 15 October 2008. Archived from the original on 18 October 2008. Retrieved 15 October 2008.
  23. ^ "30 Days MV FAINA Piracy Crisis – Background by Ecoterra". American Chronicle. 25 October 2008.
  24. ^ "Kiev says crew of Ukrainian ship seized off Somalia unharmed". RIA Novosti. 11 November 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  25. ^ Affairs, This story was written by Commander, U. S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet Public. "USS Howard Monitoring MV Faina".
  26. ^ Affairs, This story was written by Commander, U. S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet Public. "Several U.S. Ships Join Mission to Monitor Faina".
  27. ^ "Russian frigate begins anti-piracy patrols off Somalia coast". RIA Novosti. 28 October 2008. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  28. ^ Kennedy, Elizabeth A. (29 September 2008). "U.S. Navy watches seized ship with Sudan-bound tanks". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2 October 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  29. ^ Hassan, Mohamed Olad (28 September 2008). "Somali pirates want $20M ship ransom; crewman dies". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 1 October 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  30. ^ "US Navy plays waiting game with surrounded Somali pirates". Agence France-Presse. 1 October 2008. Archived from the original on 5 October 2008. Retrieved 1 October 2008.
  31. ^ Crilly, Rob (29 September 2008). "Islamists plunder weapons from hijacked ship in Somalia". The Times. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  32. ^ "Three pirates shot dead in ship hijack drama". The Standard. 30 September 2008. Archived from the original on 4 October 2008. Retrieved 30 September 2008.
  33. ^ Sturcke, James (30 September 2008). "Three shot dead in row between Somali pirates, monitors say". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  34. ^ "NATO to send ships as Somali pirates ease demands". Associated Press. 9 October 2008. Archived from the original on 13 October 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
  35. ^ "New Somalia piracy resolution adopted at UN". Agence France-Presse. 8 October 2008. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  36. ^ Hassan, Mohamed Olad (1 October 2008). "Somalia: World can use force against the pirates". Archived from the original on 4 October 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2008.
  37. ^ "Somali Islamists tell pirates to destroy Ukrainian arms ship". Agence France-Presse. 2 October 2008. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 3 October 2008.
  38. ^ "Pirates 'put down hostage revolt'", BBC, 9 December 2008
  39. ^ Sputnik. "Somali pirates invented story of attack by Faina crew - analyst".
  40. ^ "No mutiny onboard Faina seized by Somali pirates". Information Telegraph Agency of Russia.
  41. ^ Daily Nation, 14 February 2009: Arms ship's full cargo revealed
  42. ^ The Standard, 23 December 2009: No answer on ‘MV Faina’ arsenal query
  43. ^ "U.S.-UKRAINE NONPROLIFERATION MEETINGS SEPTEMBER 23-24, 2009". 9 November 2009. Archived from the original on 27 January 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2012.

External linksEdit