Maritime Case Study


off Somalia
Services provided
Risk Management, Physical Security, Hostage Negotiation, Travel Management


Whilst conducting emergency engine repairs at anchor off the Puntland coast on Saturday 8th July 2000, the French-owned cargo ship MV Mad Express was boarded by armed gunmen. Seven of her crew were forced ashore and held in the village of Bargaal some 60 kms south of the Horn, whilst the Master and a further two crew were held at gunpoint on the ship. A number of shots were fired, but no one was hit.


During the morning of Monday 10th July, Hart Director of Operations in Bossaso was appraised of the situation by the local Police Commissioner. A small liaison team was immediately dispatched to the President’s Office in Garowe and the Fisheries Patrol Vessel (FPV), Celtic Horizon, diverted to close with the detained ship. A short time later the Marine Force (MF), who provide security both to the FPV and locally in Bossaso, was directed to render all possible assistance in resolving the situation.

‘What could have been a protracted, expensive and dangerous situation was brought to a conclusion quickly without the use of force’

On the morning of 11th July the FPV approached the Mad Express, positioning herself between the detained ship and the shore. Radio communications were established with the Master who, although clearly under duress, managed to confirm that seven of his crew were being held ashore and that he was very concerned for their safety. Working through the MF in Bossaso and Hart Director of Operations in the President’s Office, negotiations were opened with the local authorities in Bargaal. This resulted in the seven crew members being secured to police protective custody ashore.

The gunmen on the Mad Express fled during the hours of darkness that night, taking with them a number of items including GMDSS radio equipment. They were arrested by the Bargaal police the following day. A small team of Hart Fisheries Protection Officers accompanied by members of the MF landed in the afternoon of the 13th, and after a period of intense but ultimately successful negotiations with the local authorities and tribal elders recovered all seven crew members to the Mad Express using the FPV’s Rigid Inflatable Boats. One crew member was treated for badly broken arms and hands sustained during a fall early in the incident, and the Mad Express left the area safely the following morning bound for Djibouti.

The key to the successful resolution of this incident was undoubtedly the presence of the FPV combined with first class and timely liaison with the relevant authorities ashore. What could have been a protracted, expensive and dangerous situation was brought to a conclusion quickly and purposefully without the use of force and with a minimum of fuss. The release of the Mad Express further reinforces perceptions of security and, most importantly, accountability in this most difficult region.