Ship Hijackings Are A Rare Occurrence, Often Complicated With PM-Ship Hijack, Bjt
Oct. 09, 1985
LONDON (AP) _ Ship hijackings are rare forms of political protest compared with aircraft piracy, and their spotty history shows they have a tendency to run out of control.
In two apparently related incidents in 1974, Palestinians hijacked a ferry off Singapore, and Pakistanis took a Greek freighter.
Cambodians boarded the American freighter Mayaguez in May 1975 in the most famous incident, and a Portuguese rebel led 70 men in hijacking the Portuguese cruise liner Santa Maria with 600 passengers in 1961.
Seizure of the Santa Maria in the Caribbean 24 years ago is believed to be the last hijacking of a true passenger liner until Monday's hijacking of the Italian cruise vessel Achille Lauro by Palestinians in the Mediterranean.
The Mayaguez incident involved the heaviest casualties, though not to the U.S. vessel's crew. The Cambodians were releasing the crew when U.S. Marines acting on orders from President Gerald R. Ford attacked a Cambodian island where the crew had been held. At least 15 U.S. Marines were killed.
The Cambodians had seized the Mayaguez on suspicion of spying less than a month after the pro-United States government was ousted from Phnom Penh. The United States called the seizure an ''act of piracy.''
Ford was criticized for his handling of the incident, but his administration said the tough U.S. response, including bombing Cambodia, showed there were limits beyond which the United States could not be pushed.
A year earlier, pro-Palestinians who had blown up oil-storage tanks at Singapore on Jan. 31, 1974, seized the ferry Laju in their escape and threatened to kill hostages if they were not taken to an Arab country.
The incident was stalemated, but blew up Feb. 6 when terrorists seized the Japanese Embassy in Kuwait, took the staff hostage and threatened to kill the Japanese diplomats unless the terrorists in Singapore were given safe passage. The Japanese sent a plane which flew the terrorists from Singapore to the Middle East, where they were accepted in South Yemen.
The Palestine Liberation Organization said then that it rejected operations such as the seizure of the Laju and regretted it had taken place.
While that incident was going on, three Pakistanis seized a Greek cargo ship, the Vori, in Karachi harbor and threatened to kill two ship's officers. They demanded that Greece release two Palestinian guerrillas who faced death sentences for an attack at Athens airport in 1973 that killed five people.
Greece gave assurances that the death sentences would be commuted to life imprisonment, and the Pakistani ship hijackers were eventually flown to Libya after freeing their hostages.
On Jan. 23, 1961, the 20,900-ton Santa Maria, which had been on a leisurely cruise from Lisbon to the Caribbean and back, was seized in a bizarre incident led by a rebel Portuguese army officer who opposed the dictatorial regime of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.
One crew member was killed and another was wounded when exile Capt. Henrique Galvao led 70 men in taking the Santa Maria. The crew of about 300 and 600 passengers were freed after 11 days in Brazil, where the hijackers were given political asylum.
Galvao, who had escaped from a Portuguese prison where he was serving a 16- year term for inciting rebellion against Salazar, demanded recognition of an opposition politician as president of Portugal.
He also said he would put the passengers ashore unharmed, and proceeded to lead U.S. Navy ships and planes on a chase from the Caribbean into the Atlantic - apparently heading for West Africa. Galvao permitted U.S. Rear Adm. Allen Smith to board the Santa Maria on Jan. 31, and later announced he would land the passengers in Recife, Brazil.
The passengers included Portuguese, Americans, Dutch, Venezuelans and Spaniards. The Santa Maria had called at Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles before it was seized en route to Florida.