. Earth Science News .

Somali pirate attacks hit record level
by Staff Writers
Mogadishu, Somalia (UPI) Nov 8, 2011

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Attacks on shipping by increasingly sophisticated Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean reached record levels in the first nine months of the year, the International Maritime Bureau says.

Indian shipowners, who have been increasingly hit as pirates have extended their raids up to 1,500 nautical miles east of the gulf, deep into the India Ocean, say the piracy scourge is costing the global shipping industry more than $9 billion a year.

U.S. risk management company Aon reports there has been a 267 percent year-on-year increase in attacks in the Arabian Sea.

The attacks are carried out mainly by Somali pirates.

IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan says there were 352 attacks on shipping worldwide in the January-September period, up from 289 in the first nine months of 2010.

"But what's significant," he said, "is that the number of hijackings is down."

Pirates have only seized 24 ships so far in 2011, compared to 35 in the equivalent period last year. This has been attributed to more vigorous action by naval forces -- and more ships carrying armed guards, a practice once considered too provocative to be effective.

Various naval forces are deployed off Somalia and across the Indian Ocean. These include the European Union's Operation Atalanta, NATO's Operation Ocean Shield and the U.S.-led Combined Task Force-151, as well as independent flotillas from countries such as China, Iran, India and Russia.

"While such forces have been extremely active in counter-piracy efforts, the area of ocean to be patrolled, more than 1 million square kilometers, makes it an impossible task to monitor all shipping and prevent all possible attacks," the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London think tank, observed in an analysis Tuesday.

"As a result, the shipping industry is turning to private security firms to fill the gap."

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Oct. 30 that British-flagged ships will be allowed to carry armed guards against pirates. Up to 200 British merchant vessels regularly sail through the waters where the pirates lurk.

The British say armed guards -- previously discouraged by London -- would only be permitted to operate while passing through dangerous waters.

Cameron, asked whether he was comfortable with allowing private security operatives to "shoot to kill," told the BBC: "We have to make choices.

"The fact that a bunch of pirates in Somalia is managing to hold to ransom the rest of the world and our trading system is a complete insult and the rest of the world needs to come together with much more vigor."

Peter Hinchliffe, secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping, which represents more than 80 percent of the world's merchant fleet, observed: "To date, no ships with armed guards on board have been captured."

For many shipowners, this is the clinching argument, even though Hinchliffe cautioned that if the use of armed guards becomes widespread, the pirates "will respond with increase firepower to overwhelm the armed guards and, when that happens, the impact on the crew will be pretty dreadful."

The change in British thinking on this issue reflects a wider shift by governments, shipping companies and maritime organizations, including seamen's unions, toward providing armed guards on their flag vessels.

France and Spain allow armed detachments on their vessels. Italy is planning to do so as well.

When the piracy crisis in the Gulf of Aden emerged five years ago, with sea bandits from lawless, strife-torn Somalia striking largely in coastal waters in speedboats using rocket-propelled grenades, the general consensus was that armed guards would risk worsening the problem.

But now the stakes are infinitely higher. The pirates, organized mainly along clan lines, have evolved into highly sophisticated groups. They use "mother ships," usually hijacked modern fishing trawlers, to penetrate deeper into the Indian Ocean for extended voyages and capable of launching multiple attacks.

There are believed to be 7-10 gangs financed by moneymen in the Persian Gulf with agents in London's shipping insurance fraternity who identify targets with the most valuable cargoes for ransom.

The pirates' targets include oil and chemical supertankers sailing in and out of the Persian Gulf with cargoes worth hundreds of millions of dollars. This has caused great alarm that oil and gas supplies could be disrupted, driving up global prices as the world grapples with economic meltdown.

Related Links
21st Century Pirates

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

S.Africa navy chief warns pirates could head south
Cape Town (AFP) Oct 27, 2011
African nations need to pool efforts to fight maritime security threats and to prevent pirates from other parts of the continent from heading south, South Africa's navy chief said Thursday. "The requirement for all stakeholders within our maritime zones to work together is fundamental," Vice-Admiral Johannes Mudimu told a conference on African coastal security. "Without high-level politi ... read more

Thai opposition challenges PM over flood budget

Tokyo city starts radiation tests on food in shops

Social media use soars in flood-hit Thailand

Current Training Programs May Not Prepare Firefighters to Combat Stress

Adobe pulls plug on Flash for mobile

Electronics set to power US holiday sales: report

Tying atomic threads in knots may produce material benefits

GMV Awarded Contract For Paz Satellite Control Center

Hey bacterial slime get off of my boat

Drinking water from plastic pipes - is it harmful?

Sea life "must swim faster to survive"

Geologists find ponds not the cause of arsenic poisoning in India's groundwater

NASA Airborne Mission Maps Remote, Deteriorating Glaciers

Peatland carbon storage is stabilized against catastrophic release of carbon

New webcam allows world to watch live polar bear migration

Campaigners push for vast Antarctic marine reserve

China food chain shares up after buyout gets OK

Nitrogen Fertilizers' Impact on Lawn Soils

Research team unravels tomato pathogen's tricks of the trade

Peru's Congress approves 10-year GMO ban

Thai PM to skip APEC summit due to flood crisis

Orange smoke billows out of Congolese volcano

Aid groups warn over Pakistan flood fund

More than 500 die in Thai floods

Climate to widen sleeping sickness risk to southern Africa

Hitting the bottle to solve Nigeria's housing problem

China denies abuses in Zambian mines

Kenya claims Somali rebels receive third weapons airdrop

The selective advantage of being on the edge of a migration wave

Erasing the signs of aging in cells is now a reality

The benefits of being the first to settle

Human skin begins tanning in seconds, and here's how


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement