Captain’s code error triggered pirate alert

A feared pirate attack on a Norwegian cement freighter off southern Greece, which triggered a full-scale navy and coast guard operation, proved early yesterday to be a false alarm, the Merchant Marine Ministry said. On Monday afternoon, the ministry was notified by Norwegian search-and-rescue authorities that the Filipino captain of the KCL Banner had sent a coded piracy alert some 50 miles off the southwestern Peloponnese. The vessel, which had been heading from Turkey to Portugal, was ordered to sail for Pylos, where early yesterday some 30 elite coast guard commandos inspected the freighter and subjected its 19 Filipino, Romanian and Polish seamen to identity checks. Nothing untoward was found. «The captain stated that there had been no pirate attack on his ship, and that he had sent an erroneous message to the shipping company,» a ministry release said.