Crew used Molotov cocktails and water hoses to fight off Somali pirates

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 December, 2008, 12:00am

There were no drunken sailors aboard the Chinese merchant vessel Zhenhua-4 on Wednesday. The 400 beer bottles on the Shanghai-bound vessel had been emptied to make petrol bombs to fend off an attack by Somali pirates.

According to Xinhua, the ship came under attack in the Gulf of Aden and the crew of 30 defended it for more than four hours, relying on makeshift water cannons and the beer-bottle bombs.

The vessel's captain, Peng Weiyuan, told Xinhua the siege had begun when the vessel was sandwiched by two pirate ships carrying a total of nine men armed with rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles, machine guns and handguns. Seven of the pirates reportedly climbed on to the main deck - but the crew were ready for them.

Some had locked themselves in reinforced cabins; others took refuge in an outdoor 'living area' 6 metres above the main deck, removing two access ladders.

While the captain made an SOS call to Chinese maritime authorities, which in turn appealed for help from the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre in Malaysia, some crew members counter-attacked, turning high-pressure fire hoses on the pirates and throwing the bottle bombs and broken crockery at them.

The barrage delayed the pirates reaching the elevated living area, but eventually three managed to climb up and tried to break into the cabins. The crew continued to throw everything they could lay their hands on at the pirates, and even doused them with fuel drained from the engine.

One of the pirate leaders finally said they were giving up and would leave the ship if they were given shoes, since all the pirates were barefoot and the deck was covered in shattered glass. But once the crew gave them shoes, they resumed their attack, the captain said. They only retreated when a Malaysian navy frigate and helicopter arrived.

Two crew members suffered minor injuries.

'All our sailors fought with bravery and determination,' Mr Peng said.