A Korean container ship escaped hijacking by Somalian pirates in waters 740 km off Somalia on Thursday. The pirates attacked the 75,000-ton Hanjin Tianjin at 5 a.m. but all 20 crew, including 14 Koreans, locked themselves in a special room known as a "citadel" that had been newly built to protect them in just such a situation.
A Foreign Ministry official said around 7:30 p.m., about 14 hours after the pirates attacked the Hanjin Tianjin which was heading for Singapore, commandoes of the Cheonghae Unit's destroyer Choi Young boarded the container ship and found all crew hiding safely in the citadel.
A search of all 72 compartments of the 304 m by 40 m ship produced three AK rifle bullets that presumably belonged to the pirates. Commandoes also discovered pirates' footprints on the bridge of the ship. One of the bullets was found in front of the door to the citadel.
The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs received a distress signal from the ship at 5:15 a.m. and at 7 a.m. ordered the Choi Young, which was about 540 km away, to head for the Hanjin Tianjin.
At 8 a.m., the ministry confirmed from a Turkish warship in nearby waters that no pirate ship was to be seen near the Hanjin Tianjin. But it sent a Lynx helicopter to the area first to see if pirates were hiding aboard the freighter.
The attempted hijacking comes three months after the Korean freighter Samho Jewelry was hijacked by a group of Somali pirates in January. The government on Thursday debated launching a military rescue operation just like the operation that rescued the Samho Jewelry crew.
The Hanjin Tianjin was escorted by the Choi Young to safe waters and is now heading to its original destination.