30 April 2009

Incident: Container ship attacked

A container ship, not otherwise identified, is attacked approximately 250NM east of Port Victoria, Seychelles, by eight men in two speedboats armed with rocket propelled grenades and "guns." After firing upon the ship, pirates broke off the attack subsequent to evasive actions taken by the captain of the targeted ship. "One mother ship, 10-15 meters in length was observed at 3NM from the vessel." (ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping, 5/27/09)

Incident: Container ship fired upon

A container ship, not otherwise identified, is fired upon in the Indian Ocean by pirates in two skiffs. One skiff carrying 6-7 men had a white hull and black stripes; the second skiff with white hull carried 3-4 men. the pirates fired automatic rifles and a rocket propelled grenade which "fell onboard but did not explode." The attack occurred 680 NM southeast of Mogadishu near Alphouse Island. No further details. (ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Jolly Smeraldo attacked again

The Italian roll on - roll off ship Jolly Smeraldo is again attacked roughly a day after it defeated a pirate assault. There has been no dmage to ship or crew. Owner Ignazio Messina is considering hiring a security company to protect ships. A "determined" attack began at 6:20 a.m. this morning and lasted an hour. Pirates fired RPGs (mistakenly called "bazookas" in reports) one of which struck its target. (Lloyd's List, 04/30/09)

Stefano Messina, the managing director of navigation company Ignazio Messina, criticized regional naval forces:
"It is true that the ocean is huge, but the most recent attacks have been taking place outside the Gulf of Aden, and we need to focus there," he explained, "obviously the pirates are using ships as bases, and are also being protected by certain countries."
(AGI, 04/30/09)

Incident: Titan released

The MV Titan, taken 3/19/09, is released by pirates according to the Greek government. No details, including date of release. (Wikipedia, "List of ships attacked by Somali pirates," 12/31/09)

29 April 2009

Incident: Vessel fired upon

A vessel (not otherwise identified) is fired upon 280NM southeast of Barawe, Somalia, in the Indian Ocean by five men in a white speedboat. The attack, made with automatic weapons, ended after a 15 minute chase while the target ship activated fire hoses and took evasive action. (ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping, 5/27/09)

Incident: RoRo fired upon

A RoRo vessel underway in the Indian Ocean 250 NM southeast of Mogadishu (not otherwise identified) is fired upon by "pirates with automatic weapons" who give chase. "Vessel made evasive manoeuvres and prevented the boarding." (ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Jolly Smeraldo attacked

The Jolly Smeraldo, and Italian-owned container ship, is attacked 300 nautical miles southeast of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Travelling from Mombasa to Jeddah, the vessel encountered pirates who "'fired some shots but after about 10 or 15 minutes they gave up and went away,' said Andrea Gais, managing director of the company Messina, which owns the vessel." (Reuters, 04/29/09)

28 April 2009

Incident: Vessel fired upon

A vessel, not otherwise identified, is approached in the Indian Ocean by men in two craft launched 380NM northeast of Caluula, Somalia. After firing two rocket propelled grenades at the bridge, pirates hit their victim with small arms fire without causing any injuries. (ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping, 5/27/09)

Incident: General cargo vessel fired upon

A general cargo vessel, not otherwise identified, is approached by men in two skiffs in the Gulf of Aden. The men "opened fire at it with guns and RPG. Vessel activated water hydrant and released timber baulks into the sea. Pirates aborted the attacked." (ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: General cargo vessel fired upon

A general cargo vessel, not otherwise identified, is fired upon in the Gulf of Aden by six men in a blue skiff.
Vessel took evasive manoeuvres and contacted warships for assistance. Vessel fired rocket flares and operated smoke signal to prevent boarding. Later the speed boats [sic] aborted the attempt.
(ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Russians capture pirates "in the act"

Russian officials announce the capture of 29 Somali pirates caught in the act of attacking a merchant vessel. The "Admiral Panteleyev destroyer received information about an attack on the tanker flying the flag of Antigua and Barbuda in the eastern area of the Gulf of Aden on April 28. A warning shot at the attackers failed to stop the pursuit of the merchant prize, so a Russian helicopted fired upon the pirates until the attack ceased. "Twenty-nine pirates are being questioned onboard the Admiral Panteleyev," a government spokesman said. (Kyiv Post, 04/30/09)

The Panteleyev and four other ships are new arrivals to the region.
An unidentified Defense Ministry spokesman told Interfax that it was consulting with the Foreign and Justice ministries on what to do with the 29 prisoners."In any event, the matter will be decided through international channels," the spokesman said, adding that unlike the United States and Britain -- which have handed captured pirates over to Kenya -- Russia does not have a treaty allowing them to do so.
(Moscow Times, 04/30/09)

Incident: Call issued for Somali conference

Spain and France have called for a Somali conference that seems to have an anti-piracy motivation. Spain's PM Zapatero said it would seek a "wide response, not only on a security and military level, to piracy, which is afflicting both our countries and others." He used the term "complete" solution. (AFP, 04/28/09)

Incident: Vessel fired upon

An unidentified vessel in the Gulf of Aden is fired upon by automatic weapons used by armed men in a blue speedboat. The target escapes pursuit after 30 minutes having used evasion, rockets and flares to prevent boarding. No injuries or damage reported. (ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping, 5/13/09)

27 April 2009

Crude tanker fired upon, avoids boarding

A crude tanker, not otherwise identified, is approached by armed men in a skiff in the Gulf of Aden who order the tanker to stop. As the captain began evasive action,
Pirates opened fire with the guns and RPG. After 30 minutes, two speed boats with 4to 5 pirates in each boat approached the vessel and opened fire with guns and RPG. The master continued to carry out the evasive manoeuvres and succeeded in preventing the pirates from boarding.
(ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Saldhana released

The Greek-owned bulk carrier Saldhana, seized in February, has been released with its crew of 22 after a reported ransom payment of $1.9 million. It was carrying a cargo of Australian coal when hijacked. (Maritime GlobalNet, 04/27/09)

Analysis: 10X increase in piracy, year-on-year

The IMB has released a report showing a ten-fold increase in priacy "in the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2008, jumping from six to 61." (AFP, 04/27/09)

We would like to point out that this increase comes with the supplementing of CTF 150 with the new CTF 151; with the dispatch of EU and NATO naval flotillas; and with the arrival on site of Indian, Chinese, Russian, and other independent naval forces.

We notice that some ships under attack are still asking the IMB's anti-piracy center for help rather than to any local military command (clearly a breakdown in communications). We also notice that released ships are not provided for in task force planning (witness the Stolt Strength drifting powerless through pirate waters). We further saw one of the few, precious warships available against the pirates (the Bainbridge) taken off duty in order to steam Captain Phillips of the Maersk Alabama triumphantly back to land - an utter waste of assets expended in for press attention and public adulation. Finally, we notice the Maritime Patrol Zone is still not adequately patrolled: if the attacks map maintained by the IMB is any indicator, the Zone remains a kill zone that concentrates targets for piracy.

The presumption of naval competence must be withdrawn immediately. A display of competence and cooperation has been missing since early last year; it led to the dispatch of all these heterogenous national and multilateral forces to the area; to the marginalization of forces commanded by US. Adm. Bill Gortney; and to the current tenfold increase in attacks.

Incident: Qana (Gana) retaken

Yemeni Coast Guard forces attempted to liberate the hijacked Qana (Gana) "seized off the coast of Shafrah of Abyan governorate." The vessel, owned by Aden Refinery Company, was crewed by 23 men, three Indians and 20 Yemenis. "The anti-pirate operations resulted in three Somali pirates killed, two injured and other five arrested, the sources said, adding that two Yemeni coast guards were also wounded in the exchange of fire." Government sources said helicopters were involved in the rescue. They also said that Yemeni Coast Guard forces freed three other captured vessels on Sunday, 4/26. (Yemen Post, 04/26/09)

Note - the above appeared as a breaking story on the Yemen Post website on Sunday and AFP is reporting the liberation of the Qana as an event fulfilled today, 04/27, with the capture of some holdouts. - Ed.

Three hijackers were killed and 11 made prisoner by Yemeni forces recapturing the Qana (Gana) "In the first seaborne and airborne operation of its kind by Yemen."
According to the defence ministry spokesman seven pirates were captured on Sunday and another four -- two of whom were wounded -- were nabbed Monday at dawn, capping an 18-hour operation. Five crew members, including an Indian national, were also wounded in the operation to regain control of the Qana, the spokesman said.
(AFP, 04/27/09)

Incident: Commander attacked

The Liberian-flagged tanker NS Commander, a ship partly owned by Russia's Novoship, is "attacked by three pirate boats on Monday about 120 miles east of the Yemeni island of Socotra" on its way to Singapore. The crew repel the attackers, who fired small arms at the commercial vessel, with water cannon.
At the time of the attack, the tanker with 23 Russian crewmembers on board was about 130 miles from the Russian Admiral Panteleyev missile destroyer, which arrived in the Gulf of Eden on Monday to take part in patrolling pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast.
(Novosti, 04/28/09)

The tanker carries 23 crew.
Three small skiffs carrying Somali pirates, armed with rifles and bomb-launchers, closed in on the tanker from behind. However the tanker’s crew repelled them with water cannons and fire-hoses causing the pirates to fall from their boats into the water.
(Moscow News, 04/28/09)

The other owner of the ship is the Novorossiysk Shipping Company. The Commander is carrying "83,000 tons of mazut fuel oil."
The captain quickly notified the coalition of naval forces in the region of the attack. Direct communication was opened with Russian naval ship the Admiral Panteyev, which was 120 miles from the site of the incident.
(Moscow Times, 04/28/09)

26 April 2009

Incident: Sea Princess II freed

The Yemeni-owned freighter Sea Princess II is released by pirates along with 15 crew. It had been taken in January. (AFP, 04/27/09) Eight of the crew are Indian. (Reuters, 04/26/09). Operator DG Shipping say the Panamanian-registered ship will proceed to "discharging her cargo at the Bosasso harbour off north east Somalia" and then "proceed to the Port of Aden." (Samay Live, 04/27/09)

Incident: Ariva 3 attacked

The Turkish cruise ship Ariva 3, sans passengers, is fired upon near the Yemeni island of Jabal Zuqar. After a quarter hour, pirates stopped the attack for unknown reasons. The ship was en route to Aden for engine repair. (Wikipedia, "List of ships attacked by Somali pirates," 12/31/09)

25 April 2009

Incident: General cargo vessel fired upon

A general cargo ship, not otherwise identified, is fired upon in the Gulf of Aden by five men in two small "speedboats." "When the speed boats were about three cables away from the vessel they opened fire using automatic guns. Master enforced anti piracy measures and prevented the boarding." (ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Melody attacked

The German-Italian owned cruise ship Melody is attacked with 1,500 aboard "325 kilometers north of the Seychelles, and about 800 kilometers east of Somalia." Armed Israeli security guards drove off the pirates. MSC Cruises owns the vessel and "said Msc Cruises hired the Israelis because they were the best-trained security staff, the ANSA news agency reported. (Haaretz, 04/27/09)

"Six armed pirates in a speedboat attacked the ship," which was enroute to Italy. No one was hurt in the exchange of fire. (CNN, 04/26/09)

A man purporting to be the commander of the attack said,
"Unfortunately, for technical reasons, we could not seize the ship," Mohamed
Muse told AFP by phone from the pirate lair of Eyl, in the northern Somali breakaway state of Puntland."We were aware that hijacking such a big ship would have been a new landmark in piracy off the coast of Somalia but unfortunately they used good tactics and we were not able to board," he said.
(AFP, 04/27/09)

Updates (posted 04/28/09)

ASpanish warship, the Numancia, assisted by planes and helicopters "found two small boats with nine suspects on board close to the scene of the attack" and has arrested the nine suspected pirates. (AFP via BBC, 04/27/09)

The suspects have been handed over to the Seychelles for trial. (Radio Netherlands, 04/28/09)

The IMB dates this incident to Sunday, 4/26/09. (ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Patriot taken

A 31,000-tonne German grain carrier, Patriot, has been taken by pirates in the Gulf of Aden along with its crew of 17. (Independent, 04/25/09) "The Malta-flagged vessel was seized some 300 kilometers (186 miles) south-east of the Yemeni coastal city of Muqalla, a spokesman for the 5th Fleet told DPA." (presstv,04/25/09) The 31,838 dwt Maltese-flag bulk carrier is owned by Johann MK Blumenthal. (Maritime GlobalNet, 04/27/09)

Analysis: Roundup

Armed merchants - Gen. David Petraeus has testified before Congress suggesting that merchant shipos need to arm themselves. Petraeuscommands the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres of operation and is echoing statements made by Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, the highest ranking USN commander in the region. (Journal of Commerce, 04/25/09)

Weather against piracy - Reuters is predicting seasonal changes in the regional weather will diminish the number of pirate attacks in summer. "
The sea is calm now, but it will be terrible to sail especially in the Indian Ocean by May," pirate Farah Hussein told Reuters by telephone. Pirates have made millions of dollars seizing ships and taking crews hostage. After a brief lull earlier this year, gunmen continued their onslaught.

"Once we go into June, the south west monsoons will come in and that affects the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, and we may see a reduction in attacks," said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Weather analysts say the June-July-August season has the worst weather for pirates while December-January-February is less extreme, but still bad. (Reuters, 04/25/09)
Readers of our Somali Piracy Yearbook 2008 will have noticed the same thing. Note the attacks/hijacking figures for these months last year (from page 15): April - 17/7; May - 15/3; June - 8/1; July - 4/1; August - 12/7; September - 36/8.

Conferees pledge aid - An international conference on Somalia organized by the EU has seen donor nations pledge $213 million in aid characterized as "anti-pirate." news stories gave no details available. (CNN, 04/24/09)

24 April 2009

Incident: Stolt Strenth stranded

The chemical tanker Stolt Strength, released by Somali pirates earlier this week is stranded off Somalia without fuel. "'We called the members of the international (NATO/EU) fleet, but they could not help us with the fuel as they don't have the facilities to do so,' said Captain Abelardo Pacheco in a telephone interview." He added that his ship and crew need help and protection from additional pirate attacks.
Per Gullestrup, the director of Copenhagen-based shipping company Clipper, alerted AFP to the MT Stolt Strength's situation after being tipped off by a number of industry sources.

"We don't know why they [the US, EU, NATO and other navies] are not giving them the necessary protection. That's why we are protesting, as a shipping company which has already been a victim of pirate attacks, so that they do not suffer the same fate," Gullestrup said.
(AFP, 04/23/09)

In a separate interview with AP Capt. Pacheco said that "the ship was drifting around 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of the coast of Somalia because the bunker fuel they requested had not yet arrived." Apparently there was strife in the booty sharing that could ignite another attack: "... they [pirates] were allegedly double-crossed by their boss and negotiator, who Pacheco said pocketed $600,000 of the $2.5 million ransom paid." The India-bound ship was carrying phosphoric acid when taken on November 10. (AP, 04/24/09)

Meanwhile the Phillipines' Department of Foreign Affairs says it's Manama embassy is coordinating relief of the vessel with Combined Maritime Task Force and the US Fifth Fleet and this includes overflying the ship to ensure safety. The DFA said it formed a task force to manage the situation. (abs-cbnNews, 04/24/09)

22 April 2009

Incident: Somali PM urges no ransoms

Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke has told reporters that companies must stop paying pirates ransom. "The only reason people (become pirates) is because the companies are deciding to pay ransoms," he said while on a trip to Ethiopia. (Reuters, 04/22/09)

21 April 2009

Incident: Stolt Strength released

The chemical tanker Stold Strength, owned and operated by Phillipines concerns, has been released by pirates along with 23 crew. "Sagana Shipping Inc, the registered owner of the ship, said in a statement on Tuesday that securing the release of the ship and its crew was 'difficult and protracted,' but declined to say whether any ransom was paid for releasing the ship." The vessel had been held for five months. (RTTNews, 04/21/09)

"Andrew Mwangura, who heads the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, said all crew members were safe and added that the ship was headed to the Indian port of Kandla but might call at an African port on the way." The ship had been chartered by Norway's Stolt-Nielsen and its ownership involves some Japanese interests. (AFP, 04/20/09)

20 April 2009

Incident: General cargo ship fired upon

A general cargo vessel, not otherwise identified, is fired upon in the Gulf of Aden by men in two speedboats. Five to six men per skiff are armed "with guns" approach to within 150 meters. "Vessel fired rocket flares at the pirate boats and contacted the coalition warship for assistance. The pirates aborted the attempt." (ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Phillipines bans sailors from pirate waters

Phillipine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's spokesman has announced a "deployment ban of Filipino sailors on ships passing through the Gulf of Aden" without giving details on how the ban will be implemented. (Financial Times, 04/21/09)

Incident: New Legend Honor fired upon

The New Legend Honor is fired upon by "pirates in speedboats" a NATO spokesman said. He spoke in the context of attacks in the Gulf of Aden. The Chinese owned cargo ship is registered in Panama. (AP, 4/21/09) "The Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg and the British frigate HMS Portland stopped the attack with the help of their helicopters. The pirates escaped." (Wikipedia, "List of ships attacked by Somali pirates," 12/31/09)

Analysis: Dutch decry navy for pirate release

Both Dutch ruling and opposition parties are demanding to know why the Netherlands' navy ship De Zeven Provinciën released pirates after capturing them on a dhow they had hijacked and were using as a pirate mother ship. Academics contacted for insight on the release said they were baffled by the navy's behavior and called for an international piracy tribunal to try cases. (Radio Netherlands, 04/20/09)

Incident: Atlantica attacked

The MV Atlantica is attacked before dawn this morning. The Malta-registered tanker was able to evade and escape capture by a dozen pirates in two boats. The pirates attacked 30 miles off the Yemeni coast in the Gulf of Aden. (AP, 04/20/09)

Incident: Sea Horse released

Pirates have released the cargo ship Sea Horse after receiving a reported ransom of $100,000.
"We hear from the operator that it was released," said Peter Smerdon, spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program (WFP).
Date of release not available: no details. (Reuters, 04/20/09)

19 April 2009

Incident: Handytankers Magic attacked

A skiff launched from a white sailing vessel in the Gulf of Aden attacks the Handytankers Magic, a Russian-crewed tanker en route to Suez and registered in the Marshall Islands. Four pirates shot small arms and RPGs at the commercial ship, with one unexploded grenade being found on board after the attack. The crew fought off attackers with a water cannon. (Moscow News, 04/22/09)

Handytankers Magic was recently built in China for Greece's Roxana Shipping. The mother ship appeared to be a "black-painted ship with black flag," and the tanker maintained contact with (unnamed) military authotities throughout the incident. After firing the RPG, the pirates broke off the attack. (Vostock Media, 04/22/09)

The attack ended when
the Dutch frigate De Zeven Provincien repulsed an attack by seven pirates on the petroleum tanker MT Handytankers Magic. The frigate tracked the pirates back to a "mother ship", which turned out to be a kidnapped Yemeni dhow and freed 20 captive fishermen. The 7 pirates were captured without a fight, but released as the Dutch did not have the legal authority to detain them...
(Wikipedia, "List of ships attacked by Somali pirates," 12/31/09)

Incident: Pompei taken

The Belgian cargo ship Pompei is taken by pirates in the Indian Ocean north of the Seychelles. The ship, owned by Dredging Environmental & Marine Engineering NV and Jan de Nul Groep NV, is headed towards Somalia with pirates on board, a NATO spokesman said. The ship's 10-man crew consists of one Dutchman, two Belgians, four Croatians, and three Filipinos. The EU's Operation Atalanta is monitoring developments.
The 1,800-ton Pompei, whose home port is Bruges, was heading to Durban, South Africa, when it was hijacked 150 nautical miles (278 kilometers) north of the Seychelles Islands and 700 nautical miles east of Somalia, according to Atalanta, which describes the ship as a “stone carrier.” Since then, the empty vessel has been “straight on the way to the Somali coastline,” Atalanta said.
The vessel is estimated to arrive at port in Somalia sometime Wednesday. (Bloomberg, 04/19/09)

Incident: Front Ardenne attacked

An attack on the Norwegian tanker Front Ardenne is foiled by a combination of evasive maneuver and the intervention of Canadian frigate Winnipeg. Winnipeg is joined by the US warship Halyburton and a UK vessel for a seven-hour pirate chase in darkness. (Norway Post, 04/20/09)

The 80,000-ton ship was attacked with automatic fire and RPGs in the Gulf of Aden. The chase
ended with the Canadians briefly detaining the pirates but then releasing them as Canadian law did not allow their prosecution.
(DPA, 04/19/09)

The Winnipeg was escorting a food aid ship when it encountered the pirates. The pirates dumped weapons overboard before being apprehended. (The Star, 04/19/09)

Front Ardenne is an 80,000-ton oil tanker owned by the largest tanker firm in the world, Frontline Ltd. The ship is crewed by 22 Russians and Filipinos and was travelling from China to Libya. (Bloomber, 04/19/09)

18 April 2009

Incident: Crude tanker chased

A crude tanker, not otherwise identified, is chased in the Gulf of Aden by men carrying "automatic weapons" in a blue hulled skiff. "Vessel increased speed, activated fire hoses, made evasive manoeuvres and contacted coalition warships for help. The pirates aborted the attempt." (ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Chemical tanker attacked

A chemical tanker (not otherwise identified) is fired upon during a boarding attempt in the Gulf of Aden.
Chemical tanker underway spotted a black hull vessel with length about 20m with black sail. Once the vessel was astern, it launched a white hull skiff which proceeded towards the tanker. Pirates in the skiff prepared a ladder to board the tanker. The tanker increased speed and enforced anti piracy preventive measures. Pirates fired RPG which fell on the deck of the tanker but did not explode. Pirates aborted the attack and returned to mother vessel.
(ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Crude tanker chased

A crude tanker sailing the Gulf of Aden, not otherwise identified, is approached by men armed with automatic weapons in a blue skiff. "Vessel increased speed, activated fire hoses, made evasive manoeuvres and contacted coalition warships for help. The pirates aborted the attempt." (ICC/IMB Website)

17 April 2009

Incident: General cargo vessel chased

A general cargo vessel in the Gulf of Aden, not otherwise identified, is chased by a skiff in sight of what appears to be the "mother ship."
Warship contacted and informed of the speed boat and mother vessel nearby. The speed boat doing a speed of 15 knots approached the vessel on the stbd side. When the speed boat was about two nm, three armed pirates were sighted. Vessel fired rocket flares, activated fire hoses, alarm sounded. The speed boat came as close as 40-50 meters from the vessel. Master fired rocket flares towards the speed boat. Later, the speed boat aborted and returned to the mother vessel.
(ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Crude tanker fired upon

A crude tanker sailing in the Gulf of Aden (not otherwise identified) is chased by "four pirates in a boat."
Master raised distress call, increased speed and carried out evasive manoeuvres. Seeing coalition warships pirates aborted the attack and moved away.
(ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: EU forces get boost

"The European Union says it is deploying more vessels off the Somali coast to strengthen anti-piracy mission in the region. The bloc says at least three Swedish ships will be joining the mission next month." (News on All India Radio, 04/17/09)

Incident: Danish vessel attacked

South Korea's newly arrived destroyer, Munmu the Great, has defeated a pirate attack on a Danish commercial vessel, South Korean military officials announced. No details. (UPI, 04/17/09)

Munmu the Great (DDG 976) is the flagship of a South Korean flotilla en route to join TF 151. Its focus will be protecting South Korean sea traffic. (Gulf Daily News, 04//05/09)

It arrived on station yesterday escorting a 12,000-ton South Korean cargo vessel, Pine Galaxy. (Korea Times, 04/16/09)

The intended victim was the cargo ship Puma (shown here) and "was being chased by a boat with five pirates, about 110 kilometres off the coast of Yemen. The Danish ship zigzaged to avoid the pirates and launched a flare at them to delay them." (Wikipedia, "List of ships attacked by Somali pirates," 12/31/09)

16 April 2009

Incident: German lawyers deploy to defend pirates

German lawyers are organizing a pro bono defense of Somali pirates in a Kenyan trial of men accused of attacking the MV Courier. (Christian Science Monitor, 04/15/09)

"The case is being observed in Berlin with a mixture of curiosity, suspicion and concern. If the trial falls apart or is not conducted in accordance with the rule of law, the authority of the German military's mission under the auspices of Europe's 'Operation Atalanta' could be jeopardized." (Spiegel, 04/01/09)

One of the pirates standing trial is suing the German government. (Deutsche Welle, 04/16/09)

Analysis: Pirate marked for NYC trial

The surviving Somali pirate captured by the US Navy in the Maersk Alabama incident will stand trial in a civilian, non-maritime US federal court in Manhattan. He was named as Abduhl Wal-i-Musi by AP. (ABC, 04/16/09)

BBC renders his name as "Abdul Wali Muse." "There is some confusion about his age, however, and whether he can be tried as an adult in the US." (BBC, 04/17/09)

Analaysis: Pirates "known" to Somali government

Somali's Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke tells the AP that pirate identities and networks are known to his government but they need help in going after these criminals. He said he would be willing to share such information, which includes money trails. Sharmarke said his government also had plans to establish 10 monitoring posts to track maritime activity. An unidentified Kenyan diplomat said Sharmarke's remarks are being taken seriously. (AP, 04/16/09)

15 April 2009

Analysis: US unveils anti-piracy policy

The U.S. Secretary of State has unveiled what is being characterized as a "four point" plan for anti-piracy. Unfortunately, the State Department website has not posted this information yet (04/15/09, 1600 hrs), so we are dependent on news reports for the "points.

BBC lists steps as follows, however these number more than four points:

(1) "...sending an envoy to the Somali donors conference in Brussels on 23 April to work on plans to improve the situation in Somalia..."

(2) "...work with the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) to expand the multinational response to piracy..."

(3) "...states to take responsibility for prosecuting and imprisoning captured pirates..."

(4) "... track and freeze pirate assets..."

(5) "... press authorities within Somalia to take action against pirates operating from bases within their territory..."

(6) "... work with shippers and the insurance industry to address gaps in their self-defence measures..."

It can be noted that all these steps require other parties to do things - this does not appear to be an American plan or policy per se.

Updates (04/16/09)
"Clinton said she has assigned a team of U.S. diplomats to press the Somali government and leaders of Puntland, a semi- autonomous region in Somalia, to take action against the land bases. The U.S. wants 'to know what the Somali government, what tribal leaders, who perhaps would not like to have the international community bearing down on them, would be willing to do to rid their territory of these pirate bases,' she said." (Bloomberg 04/15/09)

The transcript of Clinton's four-point announcement has been released by the state department: Announcement of Counter-Piracy Initiatives (04/15/09). Details are extremely sparse.

Analysis: Roundup

Reality TV
Spike, a cable channel, is planning a reality show following the U.S. Navy in antipiracy operations, basing film crews on the USS Boxer and USS San Antonio. It surprises us that the producers are expecting to see enough action to make a TV program. Look at the news page for TF 151 - not the wire feed in the middle but the locally written "Top Stories" to the left. Kind of quiet out there in pirate waters. In that vein, we note that the USN opted to transport Captain Phillips to land by means of warship (the Bainbridge) instead of flying him off. (Note also the Bainbridge arriving five hours after the Liberty Sun called for help according to the NYT; the Boston Globe says three hours later). In 2008 we saw one distress call after another bypass American military channels. It is possible that this is happening again in 2009 and that American warships will continue as busy as the TF 151 news page suggests.

UN Somali envoy calls for "bulk"
The UN Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah says "I strongly believe that concrete efforts, such as the international maritime presence off the Somali coast, should be increased to help marginalize and suppress piracy." He said, "Without the maritime presence, the pandemic would have been far worse. Those contributing to the international presence are doing an excellent job, but they have a huge area to cover." Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ruled out "bulking up" naval forces in the region in what appears to be an overt message for piracy policy review teams currently convening in Washington.

Chamber corrects Gortney
Peter Hinchliffe, of the London-based International Chamber of Shipping, says that despite killings during French and U.S. hostage rescues, "I don’t think this will instigate an increase in violence." Hinchcliffe was responding to remarks by the U.S. regional naval commander, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, who had predicted an increase in retaliatory pirate violence, "No question about it." Hinchcliffe's organization represents 75% of the world's commercial tonnage.

Incident: Puntland sentences 37 pirates

The autonomous Somali state of Puntland has sentenced 37 pirates to three years in prison. The pirates had been handed over by the French and American navies and were judged by Puntland's supreme court. Last week, 15 pirates received the same sentences. (AFP, 04/15/09)

Incident: Titan released

The Greek owners of the MV Titan have announced its release today along with 24 crewmen. Hijacked on March 19, the ship is now en route to Korea. (AP, 04/15/09)

Incident: France opts to try Tanit pirates

Three pirates brought to France after the recapture of the pleasure craft Tanit will face trial there, the French government has decided. Pirates are being questioned in Rennes. (VOA, 04/15/09)

14 April 2009

Incident: Container ship fired upon

A container ship in the Indian Ocean, not otherwise identified, sailing 380 NM southeast of Mogadishu is approached by armed men in two skiffs. "One speed boat with six pirates attempted to board but vessel took evasive manoeuvres and boat retreated. The speed boats attacked the vessel again and fired RPG, which resulted in slight damage to the vessel." (ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Crude tanker chased

A crude tanker in the Gulf of Aden, not otherwise identified, is chased by pirates with automatic weapons. "Vessel contacted coalition warship for assistance and made evasive manoeuvres to delay / prevent boarding. A helicopter arrived on scene and prevented the pirates from boarding the vessel." (ICC/IMB Website)

Analysis: Why modern navies fear Somali pirates

Ruth Wedgwood writes of the legal issues that make navies fear the Somali pirates in the current issue of the American Interest. She says that the two key issues are: (1) Definitions in piracy law distinguishing between territorial waters and "high seas." (2) A "modern reinterpretation of the duty of non-refoulement" which prevents captured pirates being sent to jurisdictions with cruel punishments or primitive imprisonment.

Incident: Liberty Sun attacked

A U.S. owned cargo ship laden with food aid, the Liberty Sun, is attacked en route to Mombasa in the Indian Ocean. A crewman, emailing his mother, said the ship was attacked with automatic rifle fire and "rockets" (RPGs). He said one grenade “penetrated the bulkhead but the hole is small. Small fire, too, but put out.” The ship's "evasive maneuvers" foiled the pirates.

The USS Bainbridge, a destroyer, responded to the distress call arriving five hours late. The Bainbridge had been diverted from taxi duty (delivering ex-hostage Captain Phillips of the Maersk Alabama to dry land) to anti-piracy duty when the distress call arrives.

Update (04/15/09):

Pirate commander Abdi Garad says the attack on Liberty Sun was intended to destroy her. "This attack was the first against our prime target," he said, adding "The aim of this attack was totally different. We were not after a ransom. We also assigned a team with special equipment to chase and destroy any ship flying the American flag in retaliation for the brutal killing of our friends." (AFP, 04/15/09)

The pirate attack-with-intention-to-destroy negated assurances given by US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen over the weekend. Addressing pirate reprisal threats, he said, "I certainly take their [pirate] comments afterwards seriously. That said, we're very well prepared to deal with anything like that." (VOA, 04/15/09)

Incident: Safmarine Asia attacked, pirates captured

The Liberian-flagged 21,887-tonne Safmarine Asia comes under pirate attack in the Indian Ocean taking rifle and rocket propelled grenade fire. (Scotsman, 04/15/09)

Pirates "swarmed" the vessel "in several small boats" according to a NATO spokesman. (Daily News, 04/14/09)

The health of the crew could not be ascertained, the spokesman said who noted that 10 pirates in three skiffs attacked the cargo ship. (Sky News 04/14/09)

A French Frigate, the Nivôse, sent a helicopter to the area in response to a distress call from the Safmarine Asia
and observed the skiffs retreating from the thwarted attack and returning to the mother ship, which was being used as a floating base about 460 miles off the Somali coast, according to a statement by the European Union naval force. The French forces then mounted their assault on the mother ship on Wednesday, taking 11 pirates prisoner. ( The French were acting under the European Union's naval Operation Atalanta. NYT, 04/15/09)
Update (04/16/09)
The 11 pirates captured in this operation will be tried in Kenya. (BBC, 04/16/09)

Incident: Sea Horse taken

The Lebanese-owned, Togo-flagged Sea Horse is captured by pirates in four skiffs. (CNN)

The 7,435dwt general cargo ship is hijacked off the Yemeni coast in the Gulf of Aden. It is "headed for Somalia, said its insurer, WK Webster. Its operator is listed as Sealink Sarl." (Fairplay/Lloyd's)

The attacking force was made up of pirates in three skiffs. (ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Irene taken

The 35,000-tonne Greek-owned MV Irene E M is hijacked before dawn and its 22-man Filipino crew taken hostage. The attack was made in darkness and three minutes elapsed between the distress call and the capture. (Al Jazeera, 04/14/09)

Crew on board are unharmed. (Reuters, 04/14/09)

The drybulk carrier was was in the Gulf of Aden 100 n-miles south of Al Mukala, Yemen, in the Gulf of Aden when attacked. (Fairplay/Lloyd's)

13 April 2009

Incident: Two Egyptian fishing boats taken

Two Egyptian fishing boats have been taken by pirates in the Gulf of Aden. "Egyptian officials reported 36 fishermen, mostly Egyptians, on the two boats." It is unclear whether they were together or separate incidents and whether the hijacking occurred 4/12 or 4/13. (AP, 04/14/09)

"'Our ambassador in Somalia has confirmed the boats were captured off the coast of Somaliland,' Ahmad Rizk, deputy foreign minister for consular affairs, told reporters. [...] Rizk earlier told state television that Egypt's ambassador in Somalia said it was the first time boats were seized off the coast of Somaliland, which is considered one of the safest coastlines in the region." (AFP, 04/14/09)

These vessels are the Mumtaz 1 and Samara Ahmad. (Wikipedia, "List of ships attacked by Somali pirates," 12/31/09)

Incident: Panamax Anna attacked

The cargo ship Panamax Anna is attacked "by six pirates in a boat, 177 kilometres north of Bosasso." The ship escaped - no details available. Panamax Anna carries the Maltese flag and is owned by the same Greek firm as owns the hijacked Irene. (Wikipedia, "List of ships attacked by Somali pirates," 12/31/09)

Analysis: US Navy reverses course?

Unidentified sources have told Bloomberg that the military is considering land attacks on pirate bases almost six months after the UN authorized such action.

The military also is drawing up proposals to aid the fledgling Somalia government to train security forces and develop its own coast guard, said the officials, who requested anonymity. The plans will be presented to the Obama administration as it considers a coordinated U.S. government and international response to piracy, the officials said.
If true, it should not astonish that the Pentagon has waited this long to begin "drawing up proposals" for such a contingency. Secretary of Defense Gates had ruled out such a move in his New Year's trip to Qatar and Fifth Fleet commander Vice Admiral Bill Gortney repeatedly told reporters in 2008 that the "root causes of piracy" needed to be addressed whenever he was asked to apply military force. On television this weekend, Gortney returned to this favored theme yet again, saying the United States hopes "that the tribal elders in Somalia would encourage young men to look for other livelihoods, realizing that the lack of opportunity is what drives them to piracy in the first place."

In another twist on his 2008 positions, Gortney told reporters that he favors arming guards on merchant ships.

It is unfortunate that reporters covering Gortney continually allow him free rein in offering ideas and suggestions for other executives to implement - far outside the realm of his own responsibility - instead of bearing down on the question of what Gortney has done for the cause today.

As documented in our Somali Piracy Yearbook 2008, Gortney's premature establishment of a maritime patrol zone - without supplying adequate military patrols - appears to have concentrated targets in a way that exploded hijackings last year.

We further saw merchant ships, coralled into a free pickings zone, unable to reach Gortney's forces in calls for assistance, resorting in desperation to calling the IMB's anti-piracy desk in the Far East. Communications - and related planning - failed.

In deploying the new anti-piracy TF 151, we saw Gortney's new task force given a law enforcement mission with arrest, case-development, and trial being a primary activity. How this philosophy will translate into military land operations in pirate base areas is anyone's guess.

Finally - and this is a key indicator of confidence reporters have missed - new national flotillas sent to the region are kept out of Gortney's command, with Gortney appropriating to himself a face-saving coordination role for such forces.

If the Obama Administration wants a new approach to piracy, it needs to take a hard look at Gates and Gortney.

Updates (04/14/09):

Reuters reports "Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, head of the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, said of the [Capt. Phillips] rescue: 'This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it.' "

In a routine press briefing today, the Obama Administration's spokesman said regarding Somali piracy that the US president "was actively engaged ... even if he was 'reticent to speak.'"

A story carried by AP today reported: "The United States [i.e. policymakers ] is deciding how to deal with piracy on the high seas."

Updates (04/15/09):

Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen say that the review of US pirate policy will exclude key military options from future consideration.

Gates said he will not consider "bulking up" naval forces in the area and Mullen repeated his position that Somali pirate bases must not be attacked by land forces regardless of UN authorization ("I think that would be really unfortunate and would most likely backfire."). Gates reiterated the Pentagon's position that piracy will get worse until Somali poverty is cured, and demanded the international community "get something on land that begins to change the equation" for the "incredible number of poor people."

Meanwhile, Mullen defended the Pentagon's anti-piracy record with an oblique reference to multinational TF 151: "We've actually been focused on this issue [piracy] for some period of time, and set up a task force out in that part of the world last fall. We've had a focus on it." (The task force actually came together in the new year, not "last fall." And for the first half of the first quarter it had fewer than three ships.)

Returning to the Pentagon's theme of piracy being a non-military issue, Mullen spoke of legal agreements with Kenya: "There's a lot of work to do. It's a big challenge, but there are many, many people working on it [treaties] right now."

By declaring as "off limits" certain topics, Gates and Mullen give the impression that the review of anti-piracy options will focus on justifying the current unfocused and misguided activity. They will stay the course under cover of a "review".

12 April 2009

Incident: Bulk carrier attacked

A bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden (not otherwise identified) is approached by a skiff with six armed pirates aboard who fire at the vessel. "Vessel sent distress messages and took evasive manoeuvres and prevented the boarding. Vessel sustained slight damage to the bridge." (IMB Live Piracy Report, 04/12/09)

Incident: Captain of Maersk Alabama rescued

The captain held hostage by Somali pirates after they boarded and were expelled from the Maersk Alabama is rescued by the U.S. Navy. Richard Phillips appeared to be in danger of execution when snipers were given orders to kill the three pirates on the lifeboat where he was being held. The captain was bound, standing, and unhurt; a fourth pirate as negotiator was on board the USN destroyer Bainbridge during the incident and has been arrested. (LA Times, 04/13/09)

"Phillips survived five days and occasional beatings adrift in the Indian Ocean..." (Washington Post, 04/13/09) President Obama had authorized rescue on the strict condition "if the seafarer's life appeared to be in imminent danger." (Baltimore Sun, 04/13/09)

Pirate spokesman Mohamed Hashi Yasin announced in a phone call that “France and the U.S. will encounter unforgettable lessons,” for killing pirates in rescue operations. "'We will take quick revenge on American ships if we don’t receive apologies,' [said] Yusuf Mohamed Mahdi, who identified himself as a pirate commander." (Bloomberg, 04/13/09)

11 April 2009

Incident: Maersk Alabama arrives in Mombasa

The Maersk Alabama, its crew having foiled a hijacking attempt this week, has arrived in Mombasa where vessel and crew have been detained by the FBI for investigation. "Because of the pirate attack, the FBI has informed us that this ship is a crime scene," said John Reinhart, president and chief executive of Maersk Line Ltd. The captain remains in pirate custody where talks are said to have broken down with threats of arrest of the pirates, should they free their captive. (AFP, 04/11/09)

Incident: Buccaneer taken

The Tug "Buccaneer" is taken by pirates in the Gulf of Aden with 16 crew aboard, 10 of them Italians. Claudio Bartolotti, head of Ravenna-based Micoperi Srl says that his company owns the vessel. (Reuters, 09/11/09)

The crew also includes a Croat and five Romanians (AFP, 09/11/09)

Incident: Container ship attacked

A container ship operating in the Indian Ocean 285 nm east of Mogadishu is attacked by eight pirates in two skiffs wielding rifles and RPGs. "Master increased speed to 22.8 knots and the skiffs followed at 23.5 knots. They approach very close and fired upon the ship. Master made evasive manoeuvers and prevented the boarding." The skiffs were launched by a nearby mother ship. (IMB Live Piracy Report, 04/14/09)

Incident: Bulk carrier attacked

A bulk carrier (not otherwise identified) is attacked in the Gulf of Aden off the Yemeni coast by eight pirates in a blu sppedboat. "Vessel took evasive manoeuvres and contacted coalition warship. A coalition warship acknowledged and came to the location. The pirates approached at a distance of 100m and aborted the attack." (IMB Live Piracy Report, 04/11/09)

Incident: Tug attacked

A tug (not otherwise identified) towing two barges was fired on by pirates in the Gulf of Aden off the Yemeni coast. No details. (IMB Live Piracy Report, 04/11/09)

Incident: Bulk carrier attacked

A Panama-flagged bulk carrier, not otherwise identified, is attacked, with crew using fire hoses to drive off would be boarders. "Nato officials on a nearby Portuguese warship said an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade landed in the commanding officer's cabin." [This item was appended to a larger story about Gulf of Aden incidents; presumably that is the site of the attack.] (BBC, 4/11/09 via Wikipedia)

10 April 2009

Analysis: Piracy "a lot of hype"

John Patch is an associate professor for strategic intelligence at the US Army War College and a retired Navy surface warfare officer and career intelligence officer. He's written an article – appearing on the US Naval Institute website – on Somali piracy. His comments are not to be taken as official US government policy.

In an interview with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua, he says the Somali piracy problem may be overstated.

"Even with the incident of a US-flagged vessel taken, there's quite a lot of hype involved. World opinion and sometimes US opinion as well is often driven by passion, incidents of the moment and US pride. And we've got to be careful about formulating policy on those kinds of things," he says.
The US has had over a year to formulate policy, one would think. Complete piece at VOA.

Incident: Bow Asir released

The Norwegian ship Bow Asir, taken captive March 26, has been released (04/10/09) along with 27 crew. The vessel had been captured by 16-18 armed pirates. "The Norwegian news agency NTB said pirates claimed a ransom of $2.4 million had been paid, but that the amount was not confirmed." (AP, 04/11/09)

Incident: Captain of Alabama escapes, is retaken

Capt. Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama was recaptured by pirates after jumping off the lifeboat he was being held on. Pirates dived into the water after him and returned him to captivity. The U.S. Navy, observing the incident, made no effort to intervene.

In related news, pirates are said to have demanded $2 million for his release.

Meanwhile pirates holding the Hansa Stavanger hostage were said to be sailing that hijacked vessel to the relief of their lifeboat-bound comrades. (Washington Times, 04/11/09)

Incident: Tanit stormed

French commandos stormed the pirate-held Tanit, a pleasure craft taken en route to Zanzibar. The government said one hostage was killed and four freed while two pirates were killed. (Guardian, 04/10/09) Florent Lemacon, owner of the Tanit, was the hostage fatality. (BBC News, 04/10/09)

The French attack was made from Zodiac rafts which came under pirate fire. (CNN 04/10/09) The two pirates killed were on deck during the assault. The remaining three were captured. (Reuters, 04/10/09)

Incident: Ahmed Samarah and Momtaz1 taken

The fishing vessels Ahmed Samarah and Momtaz 1 are taken with 18 crew aboard. Both were hijacked "in the vicinity of Ras Kampomi off Bosaso, Somalia." (ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping, 04/17/09)

The Egyptian owners have opened negotiations the ships' captors which are held at Ga'an. The fishing craft are not IOTC (Indian Ocean Tuna Commission) authorized and lack "valid fishing licence." (Somali Marine and Coastal Monitor)

Incident: Vessel fired upon

A "civilian" vessel, not otherwise identified, is fired upon by men in a skiff.
The Canadian Frigate HMCS Winnipeg intervened to rescue a civilian ship under fire by a pirate skiff. A boarding team was sent to conduct a weapons inspection, but the would-be pirates "threw items overboard". A Spanish ship also participated in the rescue.
[Note: The Winnipeg was operating in the Gulf of Aden at the time, so presumably this was the venue for the attack.] No details. (Wikipedia, "List of ships attacked by Somali pirates," 12/31/09)

09 April 2009

Incident: France assumes command of CTF 150

"French Navy Rear Adm. Alain Hinden assumed command of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 from German Navy Rear Adm. Rainer Brinkmann during a Change-of-Command ceremony held April 9, in Djibouti," according to a USN press release.

CTF 150 is the anti-terrorist force given the additional duty last year of providing for the safety of maritime shipping in the Gulf of Aden. Frustration with the unit's performance, as well as limitations due to its primary mission, led to the formation of CTF 151 earlier this year with a primary anti-piracy mission.

Outgoing Admiral Brinkmann commented that "Local mariners rely on the international navies deployed in this region," without remarking on the CTF's record in providing local protection. (Fifth Fleet Release #059-09)

Incident: Cargo ship attacked

A general cargo vessel (not otherwise identified) operating at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden observes a mother ship launch two skiffs. "The boats chased the vessel and opened fire with guns and RPG. Master raised alarm, carried out evasive manoeuvers and succeeded in deterring the pirates." (ICC Live Piracy Report, 04/09/09)

Incident: Bulk carrier attacked

A bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden (not otherwise identified) is pursued by and fired upon by pirates in a skiff. "The vessel commenced evasive manoeuvres and contacted the coalition naval forces for assistance. A military helicopter arrived and upon sighting the aircraft, the pirates aborted the attempt." (ICC Live Piracy Report, 04/09/09)

Incident: FBI to aid USN

The Los Angeles Times reports that "the U.S. Navy summoned the FBI for advice on how to rescue the cargo-ship captain held hostage by the hijackers" in a story carried based in part on AP reporting. The Times repeated in the text that "The FBI was summoned" to help the Navy plan a hostage capture. There was no mention of the FBI assisting with hostage negotiations, as might be expected. Meanwhile, retired Navy Commander Kirk Lippold cautioned other merchant seamen that "We don't want to have a crew of Rambos" in any future pirate boardings. (LA Times, 04/09/09)

In what appears to be the AP source article for LA Times reporting, AP reports that the FBI was brought in to "Resolve the incident without military force." More ambiguously, it reports:
FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the bureau's hostage negotiating team is "fully engaged" with the military in strategizing ways to retrieve the ship's captain and secure the Maersk Alabama and its roughly 20-person U.S. crew.
(Emphasis added) (AP, 04/09/09)

Analysis: Roundup re Maersk Alabama

Insurance feeds piracy
CNBC Reporter Michelle Caruso-Cabrera believes that Somali piracy is an insurance phenomenon. "The shipping and insurance industries are to blame for the sharp increase in hijackings," she says. "Why do the insurance companies keep paying it [ransom]? Simple. The amount they get paid in pirate-premiums is obviously more than what they pay out in ransom. Until that changes, they will keep insuring, and pirates will keep pirating." (CNBC, 04/08/09)

Piracy as a matter for the courts
The editors of The Strategy Page say that anti-pirate Task Force 151 is treating piracy as as "a criminal matter, not a military one. Thus warships are staffed with sailors or civilians skilled in the collection of evidence and compiling material needed to prosecute captured pirates in a court." They write:
Any pirates caught by TF 151 ships may be kept on the USS Boxer, where a temporary jail has been used for that purpose. Several nations have made arrangements with Kenya to prosecute captured pirates. Thus the Coast Guard crime scene investigators must be available to testify in Kenyan court. U.S. personnel can interrogate pirates they capture, but none of that testimony can be used in a Kenyan court. The law there requires that all legally admissible interrogations be held before a Kenyan magistrate.
(Strategy Page, 03/31/09)

Blogger Daniel Sekulich reviews several ideas on the subject of "How to Beat the Somali Pirates" with analysis of postings in EagleSpeak and on Foreign Affairs' blog.

The cost of anti-piracy patrols
The editors of Strategy Page are using the figure $300 billion as the cost of multinational naval patrols in the Gulf of Aden and $500 billion as the prospective costs of such patrols in the Indian Ocean. These figures are not explained, however. (Strategy Page, 04/09/09)

Sea lanes and convoys
The USNI blog superimposes sea lanes over attack locations to draw attention to a pattern and make sugestions. Key point: use convoys.

Monthly tally
The ICC International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Center totals March pirate attacks at 15, February attacks at two and January at none.

08 April 2009

Incident: Maersk Alabama boarded

The 17,000-ton U.S. registered container ship Maersk Alabama was briefly seized by pirates in the Indian Ocean along with its captain and crew of 20 this morning. Boarders abandoned their own boat, reported to have sunk, and gained access to the vessel by being hoisted in on the Alabama's own lifeboats. Crew then ousted the boarders by taking hostage a pirate; the rest of the boarding party escaped with the ship's captain and an Alabama lifeboat. An exchange of hostages failed when the crew released the Somali pirate they were holding and the pirates refused to release the captain. USS Bainbridge, a destroyer was sent to the scene. (AP, 04/08/09)

The attack occurred near 7:30 am about 240 nm SE of Eyl. "A spokesman for World Food Program confirmed that part of the ship's cargo was being ferried on its behalf, including 4,000 metric tons of corn headed for Somalia and Uganda, and 1,000 metric tons of vegetable oil earmarked for refugees in Kenya. It was expected to dock in the Kenyan port of Mombasa on April 16." (LA Times, 04/08/09)

The boarding party totaled four men. The American crew "had been training for such a hijack and put that into action, foiling the pirates." "When the pirates first appeared, the Alabama crew, conscious that the nearest US naval vessel was more than 300 miles away, took evasive action for three to five hours to win time, but the four pirates eventually boarded just before dawn. Ken Quinn, the second mate, told CNN the crew locked themselves in a secure compartment and remained there for 12 hours. The pirates 'got frustrated because they couldn't find us', Quinn said." (The Guardian, 04/08/09)

World Agenda: why can't international warships stop the Somali pirates? (The Times, 04/07/09)

African pirates copy ideas for ransom riches (CNN, 04/08/09)

Pirates, ships and bounties: a recent history (The Guardian, 04/08/09)

Young Somalis get rich as high-tech buccaneers (Globe and Mail, 04/08/09)


We are getting a late start launching the Somali Piracy Yearbook blog but will begin catching up this week. As mentioned in the sidebar, we will use the timestamp feature in Blogger to place incident descriptions on the date they occurred, thus presenting a kind of "diary" effect. The comments about incidents (or other matters) will appear in the order they are made with the date information serving its normal purpose.

Not too confusing, I hope.

If you look at our 2008 Yearbook (print edition), you will notice that piracy last year was way down in the beginning of the year through April with an upsurge in May onward. We noticed that this year, increased navy activity was credited with keeping piracy down during the same quiet period. Did it?

Let's list some issues that lack year-on-year perspectives:

(1) Did the creation of a protected zone without adequate policing in 2008 create a "shooting gallery" for piracy? (We think "yes".)

(2) Has the press awakened to the Somali piracy outside the Gulf of Aden? (Some spectacular boardings have forced them to.)

(3) Will shippers change what they are doing in 2009? (We shall see.)

(4) Will naval control continue to fissure on national and bloc lines as in 2008? (We predict a little more of that.)

(5) Will useful intelligence about pirates and piracy emerge in 2009? (So far the U.S. Navy has divulged guesses and nonsense.)

Stay with us as we explore these and many other issues this year.

07 April 2009

Incident: Maritime Advisory issued

The Combined Maritime Forces command issues a maritime advisory to mariners travelling the Indian Ocean off Somalia. Commander Vice Admiral Bill Gortney uses the message to inform commercial seafarers that "Piracy is a problem that starts ashore." (ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report, 04/08/09)

06 April 2009

Incident: Bulk carrier chased

A bulk carrier in the Arabian Sea, not otherwise identified,
detected on radar speed boats approaching from the stbd bow/port bow at a distance of 12nm. The speed boats increased speed and approached closer with a CPA of 0.01nm, master increased speed, all crew mustered, activated fire hoses, switched on all lights, sent distress signal, made evasive manoeuvres and succeeded in preventing the boarding.
(ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Hansa Stavanger taken

The 20,000-tonne container vessel Hansa Stavanger, British owned, is seized off Somalia. (RTE News, 04/06/09)

Hamburg-based Leonhardt & Blumberg operate the ship, which was sailing between Kenya and the Seychelles. The crew includes "Two Ukrainians, three Russians, and 14 citizens of the Philippines," plus a German captain. (Kyiv Post, 04/08/09)

Wikipedia makes the date of capture 4/4/09 and says, citing Der Spiegel,
Around May 1st, 2009, the USS Boxer assisted around 200 members of the german special operations unit GSG-9 get close to the hijacked german container ship Hansa Stavanger. During the last phase of the operation the U.S. presidents' security advisor James Jones witheld final approval for the operation out of concern for the safety of the 25 sailors aboard the vessel. This led the german department of defense to abort the planned attack on the freighter...
A ransom of $15 million was placed on the ship. (Wikipedia, "List of ships attacked by Somali pirates," 12/31/09)

Incident: Win Far taken

Taiwan's fishing trawler the Win Far 161 is hijacked with a crew of 30 on board while sailing near the Seychelles. "Skipper Yen Shun-nan and first engineer Tung Lin-hsiang are the only Taiwanese citizens on the Kaohsiung-registered vessel, while five crew members hail from China, 17 from the Philippines and six from Indonesia." The 700-ton ship was hijacked in waters "about 1,000 kilometers from Africa and 1,500 kilometers from the Gulf of Aden." (Taiwan News, 04/08/09)

Incident: Malaspina Castle taken

The "1981-built, 21,173 dwt Malaspina Castle, controlled by Wimbledon-based Navalmar (UK)" is taken in the Gulf of Aden "en route from Novorossisyk to China." It is operated by an Italian company. (Lloyds List, 04/06/09)

The Panamanian flagged ship is crewed by 16 Bulgarians working for "an Italian firm, B Navy" and is held in "southern Somalia" according to accounts of a phone call made by the first mate.(Sophia Echo, 04/09/09)

05 April 2009

Incident: Shehenshah-E-Madina released

The Indian dhow Shehenshah-E-Madina and its crew of 18 have been released without ransom. The vessel was travelling from Somalia to the UAE. (Express News Service, 04/06/09)

Incident: Indian Ocean Explorer taken

The Indian Ocean Explorer is captured by pirates "400 nautical miles (about 750 kilometres) off the southern Somali port of Kismayo, between the Seychelles and Kenya" with 24 crew aboard. (DPA 04/06/09)

The Times says "The 115ft long vessel is a former oceanographic research ship converted for dive trips popular with well-heeled British and American tourists." It makes the hostage crew total as seven with tourists on the boat escaping capture. (Times, 04/03/09)

Passengers had disembarked just hours before the vessel was captured. (Telegraph, 04/02/09)

Incident: Tug taken

A Yemeni tug, not otherwise identified, is taken in the Gulf of Aden. No details. (BBC, 4/6/09 via Wikipedia)

04 April 2009

Incident: Pleasure craft Tanit taken

A French pleasure craft, the 41-ft. Tanit, was taken by pirates off the Somali coast en route to Zanzibar making a French couple and their three year old son hostages. " 'We know where they [the pirates and hostages] are,' said Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister." (The Times, 04/07/09)

An additional couple had joined the original party on the Tanit en route. "The piracy monitoring group Ecoterra International said the hijacking took place some 640 kilometres (400 miles) off the coast of Ras Hafun, northeast Somalia." The French foreign minister said, "this anti-piracy [rescue] operation initiated by France now involves several countries." (AFP, 04/07/09)

The father of the captive family was described by his own father as "penniless, unemployed ... with no means of paying a ransom." "The skipper had spoken to his father shortly before his boat was seized by pirates, and reported engine failure." (Yachting Monthly, 04/07/09)

The Tanit owners' family blog remains up and is the source for some information about the voyage. (France24, 04/07/09)

French "authorities launched a rescue operation in which four crew members including a child were rescued. However, the skipper was killed in the incident. Two pirates were killed and three others detained by the authorities." (ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Container ship taken

A container ship, not otherwise identified, is taken by pirates 315 NM southeast of Mogadishu. "The pirates sailed the vessel to an undisclosed location in Somalia." No details. (ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Container ship attacked

A container ship, not otherwise identified, is fired upon 280NM southeast of Socotra Island. The attackers numbered six in a single skiff and were armed with rifles. "The pirates opened fire on the vessel causing minor damages. The captain conducted evasive maneuvers which prevented the speed boat from closing in." Note that "The captain contacted the piracy reporting center who informed coalition forces." (IMB via ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping, 04/17/09)

Incident: Pacific Opal chased

The Singapore-owned tankship Pacific Opal is chased by three skiffs in the Arabian Sea. The HMCS Winnipeg, on duty as part of NATO's Operation Allied Protector sent a helicopter to the scene:
Pilot Maj. James Hawthorne said the pirates complied with Canadian instructions, which came in the form of a sign hanging from the side of the helicopter with the word "Stop" written in Somali.

"Whatever their intentions were, they complied without instructions and allowed the merchant vessel to proceed," Hawthorne said.
He added, "After we've deterred something, if they haven't actually done an act of piracy, which in this case they hadn't because we intervened beforehand, we usually just let them carry on and try to monitor their position." (CTV News, 4/5/09 via Wikipedia)

Incident: Africa Star escapes boarding

The Israeli-owned, Malta-registered Africa Star escapes a boarding attempt in the Indian Ocean en route to Kenya.
Rafi Danieli, managing director of the Zim shipping line, said company headquarters had received a message from the captain of the ship on Saturday morning saying that pirates in speedboats were firing at him and attempting to take over the ship.

The pirates continued to trail the ship, the Africa Star, but finally gave up, reportedly after the appearance of a plane sent out by the British Pirate Reporting Centre, which is in the area.
(BBC, 4/7/09 via Wikipedia)

02 April 2009

Incident: Bulk carrier chased

A bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden, not otherwise identified, is approached by two "speed boats, blue and white in colour, with 3 or 4 persons onboard."
The speed boats came as close as 0.40 nm. The Master sounded the general alarm and whistle. An Indian warship was informed. Two helicopters from Japan and India responded and the pirates aborted their attempt on sighting the helicopters.
(ICC/IMB Website)

Incident: Container ship attacked

A container ship, not otherwise identified, is fired upon "approximately 420NM southeast of Eyl, Somalia." The vessel is pursued by two skiffs, each holding four uniformed men. The "bridge was hit by bullets ... The vessel conducted evasive maneuvers from port to starboard side to prevent a boarding. Just over 20 minutes later, the two pirate skiffs reduced their speed and abandoned the attack." (IMB via ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping, 04/17/09)