Search is underway to find a St. Vincent and Grenadines- registered cargo ship that has been missing in the Indian Ocean for nearly a month, the third vessel lost in that ocean amid piracy fears, Kenya's maritime official said on Sunday.
Andrew Mwangura, director of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Program, said the MV Reef Azania vanished on June 24 after leaving Dubai carrying tons of general cargo for delivery in Seychelles and Zanzibar.
"The search is on for the MV Reef Azania and her crew which has been missing since contact was lost on June 24 off the Northeast coast of Yemen Island of Socotra," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone on Sunday.
"MV Reef Azania left port Rashid on June 18 en-route to Comoros and Zanzibar via Seychelles when she disappeared," he added.
He said the ship has a crew of 14 -- eight Tanzanians, two Indians, two Myanmese and two Pakistanis.
According to Mwangura, another ship, the MV Sea Prince, which flies a South Korean flag, was last seen at Somalia's northern port of Berbera on May 11.
Mwangura said its owners and agents have lost contact with the vessel and has since changed her name to RESALKA.
"It is not known how many crew were onboard the 2,426 grt ( Growth Registered Tonne) Sea Prince when she left Djibouti on May 11 destined for the northern Somali ports of Berbera and Bossaso with 2,400 tons of cereals," he said.
Mwangura also said the owners of the MV Infinity Marine One, which flies a Panamanian flag, were last in touch with the vessel on June 26.
He said the floating debris of the vessel which was headed for Somalia's main port of Mogadishu from United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been spotted northeast of Somalia.
"Floating debris have been spotted northeast of Somalia where the Panama flagged cargo ship MV Infinity Marine 1 released a distress signal on 26th June prior to her disappearance indicating that she was taking in water," Mwangura said.
Four ships are currently confirmed to be held by Somali pirates --two from South Korea, one from Denmark and one from China's Taiwan Province. More than 10 ships have been hijacked off the coast of Somalia since this year.
The surge in piracy in the waters off the Somali coast, one of Africa's longest and one of the world's most dangerous, has sparked off global outcry with the United Nations calling for international action to combat Somalia's "plague of piracy," saying it threatened vital aid deliveries to some 1 million people.