30 December 2009
AP via the Dallas News
HONG KONG — Somali pirates carried out a record number of attacks and hijackings in 2009, despite the deployment of international warships to thwart them and a United Nations Security Council resolution to bring the fight against them to shore.
The Piracy Reporting Center of the International Maritime Bureausaid Tuesday that pirates operating across the Gulf of Aden and along the coast of Somalia have attacked 214 vessels so far this year, resulting in 47 hijackings. Twelve of those ships, with a total of 263 crew members, are currently being held for ransom by the pirates.
In 2008, according to the maritime bureau, 111 ships were attacked in the region, a figure that itself represented a 200 percent increase from 2007.
The hijackings continued this week with the seizure of a Greek-owned cargo ship and a British-flagged chemical tanker, both of which were taken on Monday.
The St James Park, a chemical tanker bound from Spain to Thailand, issued a distress signal on Monday that it was being attacked in the Gulf of Aden. The owners confirmed Tuesday that the ship had been seized.
The tanker was being monitored by the European Union Naval Force Somalia, which said Tuesday that the ship was being taken toward Somalia. Its crew of 26 was said to include Filipinos, Russians, Georgians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Ukrainians, Poles, Indians and Turks.
The other hijacking on Monday, of a Greek-owned bulk carrier under the Panamanian flag, occurred off the coast of Somalia. An officer with the European Union force declined to provide details about the episode, which was confirmed by Noel Choong, an official with the piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The presence of warships from the European Union, the United States, China, Japan, Russia, India and other nations has managed to thwart attacks on merchant and leisure ships in the Gulf of Aden. As many as 30 ships are patrolling the gulf at any given time, naval officials said, and patrol missions were not being reduced over the holidays.
“The success rate in taking ships has dropped dramatically in the gulf because of the large naval presence now,” said Mr. Choong.
But the pirates have moved their focus to the southern and eastern coasts of Somalia where patrols are virtually nonexistent. Using sophisticated electronics, heavy weapons, large oceangoing boats and speedier attack craft, the pirates are now able to operate far from land for weeks at a time.
“Most ships are now being taken off the coast of Somalia and the success rate is high,” said Mr. Choong. “The pirates have a free hand there. We’re very concerned. It’s our main worry. We’ve asked for protection there, but the coalition is busy in the gulf.”
Pirates seized a Yemeni fishing boat in the Gulf of Aden on Dec. 18, after a lull in the gulf since a large merchant vessel was taken the first week of July.
Mr. Choong said ship owners were taking more antipiracy precautions, but he had not heard reports of armed guards being used aboard vessels.
“We are not encouraging armed guards,” he said. “The pirates have not been firing at the crews. They fire at the bridge to intimidate the captains into stopping their ships.
“We’ve seen photographs of crew members taking pictures of pirates while they’re attacking. From a distance the pirates might not be able to tell if they have a camera and not a gun.”
Somali pirates have hijacked more than 80 ships in the past two years. Tuesday's hijackings brought the number of attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia to 214 this year, with 47 vessels hijacked.
Some piracy-related events this year:
Dec. 28 -- Pirates seize chemical tanker in Gulf of Aden and ship in Indian Ocean.
Dec. 2 -- The Dutch navy captures 13 Somali pirates and seizes a haul of weapons off the coast of Oman after the pirates attacked a merchant ship.
Nov. 17 -- Pirates free a Spanish trawler and its 36-member crew after a $3.3 million ransom is delivered as a Spanish warship looks on.
Oct. 29 -- A British couple sailing a yacht off Somalia say they have been seized by pirates. They still have not been freed.
Sept. 7 -- A dispute erupts between authorities in Somalia and the Seychelles after the island nation released 23 suspected Somali pirates in what appeared to be a trade for hostages from the Seychelles.
Aug. 26 -- Somali pirates holding a hijacked ship fire at a U.S. Navy helicopter as it makes a surveillance flight over the vessel, the first such attack by pirates on an American military aircraft.
Aug. 13 -- Using machetes and guns, Egyptian fishermen held hostage for four months regain control of their vessels from pirates.
June 9 -- The U.S. Navy warns that pirates from Somalia have expanded their areas of operation far from the coast and into the Red Sea.
April 25 -- Italian cruise ship fends off pirate attack with gunfire off Somalia's coast.
April 15 -- French forces capture a suspected Somali pirate mother ship.
April 13-14 -- Pirates capture four ships and take more than 60 crew members hostage in a brazen hijacking spree.
April 13 -- Navy SEAL snipers shoot three Somali pirates in a lifeboat and rescue Richard Phillips, the hostage captain of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama after five days at sea.
April 10 -- Pirate recapture Phillips after he tries to swim for freedom.
April 8 -- The unarmed crew of the Maersk Alabama wrests control of the U.S.-flagged cargo ship from Somali pirates and sends them fleeing to a lifeboat with the captain as hostage.
March 26 -- Pirates armed with machine guns hijack a Norwegian chemical tanker less than 24 hours after a smaller Greek-owned vessel is seized in the same area.
March 5 -- A Ukrainian cargo ship carrying tanks and other heavy weapons is freed and sails for Kenya under U.S. military escort after a $3.2 million ransom is air-dropped more than four months into the ship's captivity.
Jan. 29 -- Somali pirates hijack a German tanker loaded with liquefied petroleum gas off the Horn of Africa.
Jan. 10 -- Five of the pirates who hijacked a Saudi supertanker drown with their share of a $3 million ransom, the day after the ship -- the Sirius Star -- was freed.
Jan. 8 -- The U.S. announces a new international naval force under American command will patrol to confront escalating attacks by Somali pirates after more than 100 ships came under siege in the past year.
29 December 2009
Somali pirates nab two more ships, one in protected Gulf of Aden
Christian Science Monitor
Pirates are now holding more than 10 ships and 200 crew members of different nationalities, according to maritime officials. The St James Park, a UK-flagged ...
Record Number of Somali Pirate Attacks in 2009New York Times
Pole aboard tanker hijacked by Somali piratesXinhua
Somali pirates seize two shipsCNN International
Wall Street Journal -BusinessWeek -AFP
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22 December 2009
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20 December 2009
Earthtimes (press release)
56 Filipino seafarers still in Somali pirates' custody
With less than a week before Christmas, the number of Filipino seafarers still in the custody of Somali pirates is down to 56, following the release of ...
Somali pirates release Greek-owned ship, 21 crewThe Associated Press
Somali Pirates Free Greek - Owned Cargo VesselNew York Times
14 Filipino seamen freed by Somali piratesXinhua
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18 December 2009
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17 December 2009
14 December 2009
11 December 2009
EU's Somali pirate patrol may widen: admiral
LONDON — The European Union naval force hunting Somali pirates needs to extend its patrol area to reflect the widening scale of their attacks, ...
Pirate patrol 'must sweep further'The Press Association
Somali Piracy Tribunals Unlikely, Despite CallsNew York Times
EU Anti-Piracy Mission May Need to Extend Range, Commander SaysBloomberg
Monsters and Critics.com -MoneyWeek -Times Online
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(via New York Times)
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10 December 2009
(via New York Times)
An oil spill is becoming more likely because of worsening conditions, the International Maritime Organization said today in a statement on its Web site. The 2 million-barrel carrier Maran Centaurus is anchored off the port of Hobyo after being seized on Nov. 29 while sailing to the U.S. from Kuwait.
Somalia lacks the equipment to deal with an oil spill, which would damage fishing grounds off the East African country’s coast, the agency said.
The East African country has led a global surge in piracy this year, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Attacks worldwide had surpassed levels for all of 2008 by the end of September, the group, which is part of the International Chamber of Commerce, has said.
The number of attacks in the Indian Ocean off the Somali coast more than tripled to 47 in the nine-month period from 12 a year earlier, while incidents in the Gulf of Aden increased to 100 from 51, according to the bureau. A total of 306 attacks had taken place worldwide by Sept. 30, compared with 293 for 2008, its figures show.
The Maran Centaurus, captured about 800 miles of Somalia’s coast, is the second supertanker that pirates from the country have seized in a year. They took the Saudi Arabian carrier Sirius Star in November 2008, eventually securing a $3 million ransom payment for the vessel’s release, according to the U.S Congressional Research Service.
Separately, the U.K.-owned bulk carrier Ariana was released today, more than seven months after it was hijacked, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said. The vessel had a crew of 24 from Ukraine.
Squeezed into the wood-panelled dock, the nine young men wilted in the tropical heat. Overhead a single ceiling fan battled against the crushing coastal humidity that left judge, lawyers, accused and witness sweating in the shabby Kenyan courtroom.
As the suited lawyers for the prosecution and defence parried legalistic blows, a translator changed each half-sentence from English to Somali for the accused men, while Judge Rose Makungu wrote down every word by hand. These sluggish proceedings are the front end of the global fight against piracy.
When suspected pirates are captured by some of the dozens of international warships that patrol the Gulf of Aden and seas off Somalia daily, they are brought to Mombasa to be tried in a Kenyan court.
Agreements signed between Kenya and Britain, the United States and the European Union over the past 12 months, permit the transfers of prisoners, with 107 on trial in 11 cases. A further ten were convicted in 2006 and given seven-year sentences, although the law allows life terms. After Tuesday’s hearing, Oruko Nyarwinda, a smooth Mombasa-based lawyer with matching tie and handkerchief, told The Times that his nine clients were innocent. “These guys had a speedboat with two motors because it bears passengers crossing from Yemen to Somalia. The reason they were carrying a gun is because that place is risky,” he said.
Mr Georgios said that on May 22, nine Somali pirates in a light-blue skiff bore down on the vessel, armed with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher and assault rifles. He told the court that he heard the whoosh of a rocket fired at his ship. He picked out one of the suspects, a slim gap-toothed man with a pointed goatee beard, as being the one wielding the RPG.
The pirate attack was foiled by Mr Georgios’s evasive manoeuvres, swinging the 175m (575ft) vessel from port to starboard, buying time until the arrival of a helicopter from the nearby Italian frigate Maestrale. Italian Marines say that the suspects threw most of their weapons overboard before being apprehended, but at an August hearing one of the alleged pirates, Said Abdalah Haji, said that he and his friends were attacked by the Italian Navy and abducted to Kenya.
The court hearings reveal how difficult it is to prosecute gangs suspected of piracy. The trickiness of securing a conviction is why so many suspects are simply disarmed and sent back to Somalia, prompting consternation and calls for tougher action. But RearAdmiral Peter Hudson, commander of the EU anti-piracy fleet, has little time for such criticisms. “The rules of engagement are fine,” he told The Times. “The issue is that when I detain a mother ship in the middle of the ocean how do I get those pirates into a court of law?
“My aircraft has flown over it, I’ve seen skiffs, fuel, ladders, 15 pirates and no fishing gear, so it’s not out there for a Sunday afternoon sail [but] they haven’t committed an act of piracy.”
The difficulty of proving conspiracy to commit piracy in a court meant that unless the pirates were caught actually engaged in piracy, there was little chance of a conviction. It was “intensely frustrating”. The EU has sent 75 suspects to trial in Kenya, on what Admiral Hudson called “direct linkages ... I could have trebled or quadrupled that if we could prosecute for conspiracy”. All are held at the 50-year old Shimo La Tewa prison where 2,000 inmates are incarcerated, just up the road from Mombasa’s famous beach resorts.
Wanini Kireri, the officer in charge, called the pirates “a blessing in disguise” because as part of the deal by which Kenya tries pirate suspects, the judiciary and prison system is getting a minor upgrade. About $7 million (£4 million) in funding is being provided to support piracy prosecutions in Kenya and other courts in the region, notably in the Seychelles. As part of that, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has provided mattresses and blankets, a new kitchen and a better sewerage system. The UN body has also provided support to the courts and lawyers.Mr Nyarwinda, who said he was providing his services without charge, criticised what he called a “lopsided” approach that he said stacked the odds against the suspects, with most funding going to prosecutors and magistrates.
By Renee Maltezou
ATHENS (Reuters) - The owners of a Greek ship held by Somali pirates for more than six months said on Thursday the company had paid a ransom to the gunmen holding it and were now waiting for the Maltese-flagged Ariana to be freed.
Pirates from Somalia have made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms, seizing commercial shipping in the Indian Ocean and strategic Gulf of Aden, which links Europe to Asia.
A multinational naval deployment in the area seems only to have driven them to hunt further from shore.
"We've paid the ransom and we are waiting for the pirates to release the Ariana," Spyros Minas, head of Alloceans shipping told Reuters, declining to disclose the amount of ransom paid.
The Ariana and its 24 Ukrainian crew were seized on May 2 north of Madagascar en route to the Middle East from Brazil.
Earlier on Thursday, a pirate source told Reuters that a helicopter had dropped $2.6 million (1.59 million pounds) onto its deck.
"We have taken a $2.6 million ransom to release the Greek ship," one of the gang, Farah, said by telephone. "We are now dividing the money and will disembark in the afternoon."
WRANGLES OVER RANSOM Continued...
Kenyan courts on legal front line in battle to stop Somali pirates
When suspected pirates are captured by some of the dozens of international warships that patrol the Gulf of Aden and seas off Somalia daily, ...
Somali pirates hijack Pakistan-flagged shipThe Associated Press
Pirates of Somalia: The curse of desperation and povertyAustralia.TO
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Greek-owned cargo ship to be freed in Somalia
The Associated Press
In the Somali coastal town of Hobyo, a self-proclaimed pirate who gave his name as Ahmed Gedi said his group had been paid $2.8 million to free the Ariana. ...
Somali pirates receive $2.7m ransom for Greek shipHerald Sun
Ransom paid for seized Ariana cargo ship - sourceRIA Novosti
Greek Ship Owner Says Ransom Paid to Somali PiratesNew York Times
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09 December 2009
Dubbed 'Operation Atalanta'' the Nansen is one of thirty-five warships currently patrolling the Gulf in a security cordon stretching from Djibouti to the east coast of Yemen. It involves more than two dozen nations including states such as India, Japan, Russian and China.
The arsenal of weapons aboard the Nansen used to capture and deter would-be pirates is impressive. In addition to the long-range gun barrel that protrudes from the turret on the bow - used to scare pirates rather than blow them up, I'm assured - is an anodyne-looking circular device.
If suspicious boats don't stop when ordered heavily armed special forces - in teams of six - are dispatched in aquiline rubber speedboats to arrest them. Pirates are then transferred into one of two specially-built mobile prisons mounted close to the bridge; each cage measures no more than a few square meters and containes four bunk-beds and a toilet.
One sailor showed me a photo of a cache of weapons discovered aboard one captured skiff. Giveaway signs of piracy included a rusty rocket propelled grenade launcher, a grappling hook and a ladder. Not, however, the half dozen AK 47 rifles. "Having AKs for Somali fishermen is quite normal," the officer drolly remarked.
In addition to pirates, the Nansen has also discovered adrift seamen and people smugglers; it is obliged to help and release both groups as the latter does not fall under its mandate.
Yet despite of the might of the world's fleets amassed on the high seas piracy has continued seemingly unabated. Currently pirates are holding eleven ships with a total of 283 hostages and hoping - like many of their colleagues before them - to walk away with tens of millions of dollars in ransom booty.
Ole Sanquist, captain of the Nansen, told RFI that Somalia's own capacity to tackle piracy would have to be built if the scourge is to be won in the long-term. "In November we had meetings with government representatives in Puntland and Somaliland and brought them aboard our ship. It's a confidence building exercise," he said.
For now, despite the EU's modest success, the pirates have simply moved on from the Gulf of Aden. The night before we sailed Major Marten Granberg, a Swedish major aboard the Nansen, received a text message: a Pakistani fishing boat had just been hijacked in the Indian Ocean.
|By TOFAYEL AHMED|
2009-12-09 06:53 PM
A Pakistan News
Somali pirates hijack Pakistan-flagged ship
The Associated Press
NAIROBI, Kenya — The spokesman for the European Union's anti-piracy force says Somali pirates have hijacked a Pakistan-flagged fishing vessel. ...
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07 December 2009
Kansas City Star
Pirate Payoffs Feed Big-Money Lifestyle in Somalia
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The reason: pirates.
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05 December 2009
High crimes on the high seas
It is the third tanker and the second carrying oil to be taken by pirates in what appears to be an alarming trend of worsening pirate hits. ...
Pirates warn against navy raid on Greek tankerAFP
Hijacked Greek ship moored close to pirates' den in SomaliaWorld Sentinel
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04 December 2009
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03 December 2009
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02 December 2009
Hijacked Greek super-tanker anchors off Somalia
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Cappy, they’re called ‘warnings’ for a reason.
MONTPELIER, Vt. — Some crewmen who were aboard the American cargo ship hijacked by pirates last April now say their captain ignored repeated warnings to stay at least 600 miles off the African coast.
Records obtained by The Associated Press show that maritime safety groups issued at least seven advisories warning of pirate attacks in the days before outlaws boarded the Maersk Alabama in the Gulf of Aden, about 380 miles offshore.
A piracy expert and the ship's second-in-command say Captain Richard Phillips had the prerogative to heed the warnings or not.
Phillips, who lives in Underhill, declined to comment on the allegation.
USA Today Article: 'Real Pirates' invade Virginia maritime museum
By Ben Sanga (email the author)
Posted Wednesday, December 2 2009 at 00:00
Global shippers have raised the piracy levy due to an increase in pirate attacks off the Coast of Somali.
The move is aimed at offsetting potential losses, however it is expected to push up the cost of shipping into the East African region.
This means that shippers in the region, already overburdened by the piracy menace, will have to dig dipper into their pockets to offset transport cost, a trend that will be reflected on the retail prices of imported goods.
In a recent development, French shipping company CMA CGM announced that it would increase its piracy surcharge up to $41 per twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU).
“The transit of container ships through the Gulf of Aden in both directions is subject to high costs caused by the prevailing risks of piracy in the area. CMA CGM continues to ensure the safety and security of cargo carried by its vessels through the Gulf of Aden,” the company said in a statement.
The new charge, which will come into effect from December 15, will represent a 44 per cent increase in the levy — up from $23 per TEU.
United Arab Shipping Company had taken a similar step in February, increasing the charge to $22 per TEU for containers moving through the same route.
Though other shipping lines have not openly admitted that they have introduced a surcharge, shippers complain that some of them have increased the levy to $100 per TEU.
Piracy incidents along Indian Ocean routes have led to an increase in cargo handling charges, a load that has been passed on to the shippers even as the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) pushed on with its plans to bring down the cost of shipping through the Port of Mombasa.
“Even as maritime regulatory bodies continue to push for a reduction in shipping costs, some of these factors would still continue to push the cost higher than expected,” said Capt Fredrick Wahutu of the Kenya Ships Agents Association (KSAA), adding that he would not be surprised if other liners increased the levy too.
Experts said the ending of the Monsoon season would lead to an increase in piracy incidents.
According to Seafarers assistant programme officer Andrew Mwangura, the attacks have begun to stray further into international waters.
He said that pirates now operate in an area estimated to be 1.4 million square miles of open waters off the Somali coast.
In the past, some shipping lines have tried to dodge the menace by navigating through the southern tip of Africa.
An analysis by Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMC) last month indicated that it was very expensive for vessels to pass through the Suez Canal.
BIMC said an owner of a container ship loses up to $2.4 million while an owner of a large crude carrier loses up to $7million by sailing round South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to avoid pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
Experts said that avoiding attacks in the Suez Canal could add $1.5 million to $2 million to the cost of a shipment in terms of extra fuel, time and labour.
They said that insurance premiums protecting vessel against damage and delays due to piracy had increased five to tenfold, while the cost of hiring a security escort to pass through the Suez Canal was as much as $100,000 per journey, depending on a ship’s size and the value of its cargo.
“The piracy issue is very costly to the shipping industry... That is why we are calling for concerted efforts from all stakeholders,” said Mr Mwangura.
He blamed ship owners and states in which the ships are registered of not supporting the fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean.
He said that majority of “flag states” whose vessels ply the piracy-infested areas of the Indian Ocean had abandoned the fight to cargo and ship owners.
“We have already written to the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) to complain over this trend where by flag states are shying away from this responsibility. They are supposed to be actively involved, even more than cargo owners as the vessels belong to them,” said Mr Mwangura.
Flag states refers to the authority under which a country exercises regulatory control over a commercial vessel which is registered under its flag.
This includes inspection, certification, and issuance of safety and pollution prevention documents.
Mr Mwangura said ITF had issued a warning to the liners that the life of seafarers working on vessels transiting through piracy infested waters must be safeguarded.
ITF states: “Save in exceptional circumstances, ships should not transit the (affected) area.
The risk of attack is now so great that putting seafarers in harm’s way amounts to a breach of the ship owner’s duty of care.
“There are others who are shirking responsibility and as good as accepting the steadily growing menace, which has brought us to the point where one of the world’s great trading routes is now almost too dangerous to pass through.”
* West African pirate gangs targeting cargoes
* More likely to use extreme violence
* Shore based response sought
By Jonathan Saul
LONDON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Ships passing through the Gulf of Guinea are at greater peril than off Somalia because West African pirates are ready to use deadly force to snatch oil cargoes and have little interest in holding crews for ransom.
While the number of attacks carried out by Somali gangs off the east coast of Africa is bigger and has dominated headlines, West African waters are also a high risk area as countries in the region develop more oil fields and surveillance by authorities is weak.
"The level of violence used in the Gulf of Guinea is extreme and there have been a number of deaths and violent attacks on crews," Peter Hinchliffe, marine director with the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), said.
"This is beyond words -- it's a totally unacceptable situation," said Hinchliffe, whose association represents 75 percent of the global shipping industry.
The Gulf of Guinea, which stretches from Liberia in the north to Angola in the south and where nations produce 5 million barrels of oil per day, has attracted armed gangs, pirates and organised criminals.
Last week pirates attacked an oil tanker off Benin, killing a Ukrainian sailor and stealing the contents of the ship's safe.
Unlike their Somali counterparts, seaborne gangs in West Africa aim to seize cargoes rather than take hostages for ransom.
Analysts said they are much better trained, have more firepower and are able to snatch oil tankers and sail them to one of the many ports along the coast which lack sufficient security or where officials can be bribed. The stolen oil can then sold into the local market.
"It's a different dynamic in West Africa. The real object is the commercial goods -- critically oil," J. Peter Pham, an African security advisor to U.S. and European governments and private companies, said.
"There is no compelling logic to keep a crew alive when what you are really after is the contents of a tanker."
The head of Britain's Royal Navy, Admiral Mark Stanhope, whose ships have been deployed off the coast of Somalia, said piracy in the West Africa was "something we can't ignore".
"It's a concern," he told reporters in London last week.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said there had been 23 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea in the year to end November compared with 39 in the same period last year, and incidents went unreported partly due to fear of reprisals.
IMB manager Cyrus Mody said there had been at least twice as many incidents in 2009, mainly around Nigeria.
"There are definitely incidents taking place which are not reported to us or to the local agencies," he said. "The risk is just as great as it is along the east coast of Africa."
Pham, also a professor at James Madison University in Virginia, said some oil companies chose not advertise their vulnerability to pirates by reporting attacks.
The ICS's Hinchliffe called on the Nigerian government to control the issue from the "shore side".
Military spokesman Colonel Mohammed Yerima said for now Nigeria did not have troops in the Gulf of Guinea.
"The government decides whether or not to deploy troops and we obey those orders," he said. "The Nigerian army has the capability to defend the country's territorial waters."
Earlier this year Cameroon's defence minister, Rene Ze Meka, said his country together with Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe would launch joint sea operations to combat crime along the coastline.
A senior Cameroon military official said the country had deployed an Israeli-trained elite battalion in its maritime zone in the Gulf of Guinea.
"It is thanks to this base that we quickly repelled an attack off the Bakassi peninsula very recently, without recording any losses," the official told Reuters.
Analysts say that as countries in the region such as Ghana develop their oil fields, the problem is likely to spread, given weak cooperation between countries and the broken up geography of the waterways.
"Because Somali piracy is seen to be a successful business model, I think we are going to see a proliferation of that kind of attack in regions where law and order is not adequately imposed by the national government," the ICS's Hinchliffe said.
(Additional reporting by Austin Ekeinde in Port Harcourt and Tansa Musa in Yaounde; Editing by Giles Elgood)
((For a link to attacks in the Gulf of Guinea click on [ID:nGEE5AO1DV] ))
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01 December 2009
By JASON STRAZIUSO (AP) – 1 hour ago
NAIROBI, Kenya — International naval forces will never be able to completely secure the vast area of ocean where Somali pirates are hijacking ships off East Africa, the commander of the EU Naval Force's counter-piracy efforts said Tuesday.
In the latest attack, pirates captured the Greek-flagged tanker Maran Centaurus on Sunday while it was carrying 275,000 metric tons of crude oil, the ship's owners said. That is equivalent to about 2 million barrels of oil worth roughly $150 million, said Ben Cahill, head of the Petroleum Risk Manager service at PFC Energy.
The naval commander said the Maran Centaurus was traveling east of an area that the EU Naval Force advises tankers to steer clear of, so that it wouldn't necessarily have expected to have been attacked. Pirates now hold 11 ships and 264 crew members off the coast of Somalia, said Rear Adm. Peter Hudson.
"The news of a few days ago of a 300,000-ton tanker being seized is illustrative of the problems in protecting and policing an area of the world's oceans that amounts to an area of about 1 million square miles," said Hudson, the commander of the EU Naval Force's counter-piracy operations.
Hudson also said the fact that pirates are now attacking ships as far as 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) off the Somali coast presents a large challenge and that the EU force will never fully secure such a large area. The EU Naval Force's strategy in the smaller Gulf of Aden is to lengthen the amount of time it takes pirates to get on board so that a warship or helicopter can be dispatched to the scene.
"The difficulties in an area as large as it is in the Indian Ocean with the short number of assets that we have is that ... the pirate can keep going and keep going and keep going until it's successful in getting on board, because there's nothing there to stop it," he said.
Hudson said oil tankers like the Maran Centaurus can be tempting targets.
"She's a big ol' girl, almost a quarter million tons. They're not speedy, they sit low in the water ... so a determined pirate like this one can be successful," Hudson said in Kenya during an extended trip to East Africa.
As pirate activity has increased off East Africa, some ships have begun carrying armed guards. The EU Naval Force said Tuesday that a Spanish fishing vessel with a private security team on board fired warning shots at pirates during an attack Sunday, fending off the hijack attempt.
However, fuel tankers like the Maran Centaurus do not have armed security because of how flammable the cargo is, a determination Hudson said he agrees with.
"At the moment the consensus is, and I think quite rightly, let's be very wary before we bring military groups, armed guards, civilian guards onto fuel tankers full of fuel and gas," he said.
Bigger tankers like the Maran Centaurus are too large to use the Suez Canal and must sail south around Africa to Europe or the U.S., said Samuel Ciszuk, an analyst for IHS Global Insight. But if attacks increase, those tankers will have to steer clear of a large part of the northwest Indian Ocean and southwest Arabian Sea, adding days to the trip.
The operating costs will then rise, not only for fuel and wages for the crew but insurance premiums, Ciszuk said.
Somalia's lawless 1,880-mile coastline has become a pirate haven. The impoverished Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning government for a generation and the weak U.N.-backed administration is too busy fighting an Islamist insurgency to go after pirates.
Hudson said the piracy problem is not going to be solved "by racing around the Indian Ocean capturing pirates. The longterm solution is onshore in Somalia."
The Maran Centaurus is only the second oil tanker captured by Somali pirates. The Saudi-owned Sirius Star was hijacked a year ago, leading to heightened international efforts to fight piracy off the Horn of Africa. That hijacking ended with a $3 million ransom payment. The ship held 2 million barrels of oil valued at about $100 million and was released last January.
The EU Naval Force escorts humanitarian aid to Somalia, including World Food Program aid. The force has escorted more than 50 convoys and 300,000 tons of food into Somalia, Hudson said.