27 May 2010

Spanish Fishing Vessel Escapes First Ever Pirate Attack Off Madagascar Read more: http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7018809589#ixzz0p8whI63S

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Ayinde O. Chase - AHN News Editor
Antananarivo, Madagascar (AHN) - A Spanish fishing vessel narrowly escaped an attack and hijacking by pirates off the coast of Madagascar. The Tuesday incident marks the first such act by pirates in the Mozambique Channel.
The ship's owners, the Echebasta Co., released a statement stating, "This morning, our tuna trawler, the Campolibre Alai, was the victim of a pirate attack in the waters of Madagascar, near the waters of the French island of Mayotte."
The trawler engaged in evasive maneuvers and was able to escape without any injuries.
Echebasta also revealed that security measures on board had “functioned effectively.”
According to maritime sources, the attack occurred 70 nautical miles east of Mayotte and 90 nautical miles from Madagascar, in the northern part of the Mozambique Channel.
The nearby Gulf of Aden off east Africa has been rife with piracy over the past few years and pirates have been able to make off with millions of dollars in ransoms.
In 2009 the Spanish tuna fishing vessel, Alakrana, and its crew of 36 were taken hostage for more than a month off the coast of Somalia, where pirates have bases. They were finally freed after a ransom of $4 million was paid.

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'Pirates' claim they were just fishing for sharks... with rocket launchers

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Five Somali men have protested that they were shark fisherman not pirates despite being intercepted off Somalia's coast after attacking a Dutch vessel with rocket launchers and assault rifles.

The  five suspected Somali pirates
A courtroom sketch shows five suspected Somali pirates attending a hearing in a Rotterdam court. Photo: AFP/GETTY
Europe's first modern trial for the 17th century crime of "sea robbery" has opened in Rotterdam amid protestations of innocence from the accused.
The men, facing jail terms of nine to 12 years, are accused of attacking and attempting to hijack the Samanyolu, a Dutch Antilles-flagged ship, while it was sailing in the Gulf of Aden in January 2009.

Saunas, massages help Swedish sailors hunt pirates

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ABOARD THE CARLSKRONA — Drops of sweat trickled down the faces of the pirate hunters on the Swedish warship. They conferred in low voices, finally reaching a consensus: Yes, throw another pitcher of water onto the sauna heater.
Pirate-hunting has come a long way since the Knights of Malta battled the Barbary Corsairs four centuries ago.
Floggings, weevils and scurvy are out. Saunas, fresh bread and massages are in — at least aboard the Swedish warship Carlskrona, the flagship of the European Union's force to hunt down Somali pirates, who have hijacked 23 ships this year.
Building an international alliance to fight the pirates means navies have to try to harmonize their cultures alongside their weapons and communications systems. Some of the adjustments are serious, like agreeing to common rules of engagement and having lawyers advise warships on how to gather evidence and treat captives.
A handbook produced by the Swedes and given to other European nations not only has such phrases in English and Somali as "No talking" and "Put your weapon down," but also includes "Calm down" and "We are here to help you" — for use when boarding teams search Somali fishing vessels or boatloads of refugees.
But the coalition-building has also led to some odd cultural exchanges. Chief among them has been getting foreign officers used to the Swedish habit of socializing with little or no clothing in the warship's sauna.
During off-duty hours, the sauna is at the heart of socializing on the ship. Spanish, German and Norwegian officers meet their Swedish colleagues there after long days in the Indian Ocean searching for pirates, responding to their attacks and planning escorts for ships.
Of course, in the waters off the sweltering Somali coast, sailors can work up a good sweat by simply doing nothing. Temperatures often hover around 100 degrees (37 degrees Celsius).
Taking a steam together is an essential way of getting to know someone in much of Scandinavia, said Mika Raunu, a sailor in the Finnish navy. It's in the same tradition of Scandinavian egalitarianism that sees officers sharing rooms with lower-ranking sailors.
It also has led to a few cultural misunderstandings.
Lt. Cmdr. Carl Sjostrand told of a Swedish captain who invited a U.S. admiral to meet his senior officers after a formal ship's dinner. The American was led down to the sauna in full dress uniform — only to end up shaking hands with a line of sweaty, smiling and naked Swedish sailors.
Like all facilities, the saunas are used by both men and women, and the Swedish military does not segregate living quarters or bathrooms.
Women make up 20 percent of the sailors onboard the Carlskrona, doing everything from intelligence work to machine gun drills and working in the helicopter squadron. Among the female crew is Susanne Bursvik, one of two nurses onboard who help sailors relax between watches or exercises by offering massages.
"If I can help people feel better, I feel I've done my job," she said. "All these people are so far from home."
Her two children thought it was "pretty cool" she was out searching for pirates, she said.
The sailors have many rituals aboard the Carlskrona to break up the monotonous days and months. Among them: the captain gets the honor of eating the first flying fish that lands on deck. There are also fraternity-like raids to steal the mascots of rival ships — the current captive is a toy beaver — as well as the tradition of dressing up as King Neptune to celebrate the crossing of the equator.
The Carlskrona was deployed a month ago, and will be part of the EU flotilla until November.
The galley crew does its best to overcome nostalgia for home-cooked meals by preparing salmon, beef or ostrich steaks, sometimes producing a surprise formal dinner in the middle of the night for the late watch.
Bakers make at least four different types of fresh bread every day, using syrups, nuts and whole grains. Cooks also prepare sweets for the crew — one day it was small chocolate balls covered in sprinkles, served on what is known as the "Seal Deck" because of the number of sailors sunbathing after lunch.
In the evenings, off-duty sailors can unwind with a movie. One of the choices was "Pirates of the Caribbean."
Sailor Christoffer Nilsson-Mineur was asked if he felt any affinity with Johnny Depp's eyeliner-sporting, swashbuckling hero.
"Not really," Nilsson-Mineur said thoughtfully. "I guess we're more like the cool English guy who hunts him."

24 May 2010

U.S. destroyer rids ship of 50 pirates

U.S. destroyer rids ship of 50 pirates: "A U.S. destroyer rescued a ship off the coast of Somalia after it was taken over by 50 pirates, authorities said.


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Somalia: Puntland security detain Pirates ringleader

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Somaliweyn –Mohammed Omar Hussein
A senior and famous Somali pirate whose name appears on top in a list of American most wanted Somali pirates has fallen in the hands of the authority of the semiautonomous state of Puntland in eastern Somalia.

The United State of America has earlier announced to have frozen the wealth of the ringleader whose name is Abshir Cabdullahi Abshir Boyah.
The famous Pirate Mr. Boyah is known to be fostering the strongest Islamist faction in Somalia (Al-Shabab) with whatever he gets fro the vessels voyaging off the coast of the Somali waters, be it money, weapons and other valuable materials.
Mr. Boyah the proud pirate was on Tuesday apprehended by the security personal of Puntland state while he was in Garowe town the capital of Puntland intending to a destination which the immigration department has not yet specified.
While Abshir Boyah was apprehended he had $29 Million dollars inside his car and 2 Pistols.
“The arrested man Mr. Boyah is a famous individual among all the other Somali pirates, and he can be termed as the pioneer of the Somali pirates in Puntland state, he has invested them with all the necessary materials which can facilitate in hijacking vessels voyaging in the Indian ocean and as far as the red sea, some of these materials are weapons, speedboats and some other related items” said Abdi Hirsi Qarjab the regional commissioner of Nugal region in Puntland.
Somaliweyn had the opportunity to reach one of the pirates’ through the phone, and asked what sort of a man is Boyah.
“Mr. Abshir Boyah is the father of the pirates in Puntland, he is the founder, and his task was merely to dispatch pirates to different directions, and watches the vessels which are coming to the shore and which group has first anchored a vessel on the shore” said a Somali pirate talking to Somaliweyn in condition of anonymity

Pirates on Falcon Lake

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Citing several armed robberies and attempted armed robberies on Falcon Lake in Zapata County, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Zapata County Sheriff's Office are strongly urging boaters on Falcon Lake to stay on the United States side of the lake and not venture into Mexican
Three reported incidents since April 30 have raised concern among law enforcement officers in the Lake Falcon area. Two of the three incidents involved United States citizens who had gone into the Mexican side of the lake, passing the International Waters markers. Most of the incidents occurred in the Old Guerrero area, but it's possible that other areas are a concern as well.
Fishermen are advised to stay as far away as possible from any of the Argos-type fishing boats typically used as fishing vessels by Mexican fishermen. These boats have a large prow, a small outboard motor without a cowling and no identification numbers on the hull.
Several bass fishing tournaments are scheduled for Falcon Lake during the next few weeks, and officials are concerned that they could be in danger if they cross into Mexican waters while they fish. One of the incidents occurred in U.S. waters.
This weekend, Zapata County Sheriff Sigi Gonzalez, will discuss these concerns with bass tournament participants. He has been working with Texas Parks and Wildlife regarding security matters on Falcon Lake. The DPS Border Security Operations Center and the Fusion Center are working with Zapata County and Parks and Wildlife to review protective measures in the area.
The robbers are believed to be members of a drug trafficking organization or members of an enforcer group linked to a drug trafficking organization who are heavily armed and using AK-47s or AR-15 rifles to threaten their victims. They appear to be using local Mexican fishermen to operate the boats to get close to American fishermen.
On April 30, five people in two different boats were fishing on Falcon Lake and went to the Old Guerrero area, where they were taking photos of the old church. While they were there, a boat with four heavily tattooed men approached the two boats quickly. The men identified themselves as "Federales," but they were not wearing uniforms. The men boarded the boats, demanded cash and asked "where are the drugs?" The fishermen told the men that they had no drugs and were just fishing and taking photos. They ended up giving the men $200 cash and left the area. The pirates followed the two boats, but the U.S. boats were able to outrun them and the men stopped following once the two boats entered U.S. waters.
On May 6, three fishermen were about a quarter of a mile from Marker 14 on the north side of Salado Island on top of the ruins. As they were fishing, a boat with two men quickly approached and pointed AR-15s at the fishermen. One of the men boarded the boat and searched it, looking for drugs, cash and guns. During the incident, he chambered a round in the rifle and told the fishermen that he would shoot them if they did not give him money. The fishermen took money out of their wallets and gave it to them.
On May 16, law enforcement officers were told that some boaters were approached by a boat with five armed men on it. Investigators have not been able to locate the boaters to determine whether any cash was taken. This incident occurred on the United States side of the lake near Marker 7. Anyone who is involved in an incident on Falcon Lake should dial 911 and report it to the Zapata County Sheriff's Office.
To maximize safety, boaters should stay in U.S. waters on Falcon Lake and file a float plan. This means leaving a detailed note with family members telling the time and place of departure (boat ramp), destination and direction of travel, boater cell phone number if available, names of passengers and what they're wearing, and a description of the boater's vehicle and boat, including boat and vehicle license numbers.
The U.S. State Department website lists several travel alerts related to violence in Mexico. Travelers should always check that website for the most up-to-date information related to security issues in Mexico.

Dutch to hold first European Somali pirate trial

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The first European trial of Somali pirates is set to open Tuesday in the Netherlands where five men risk up to 12 years in jail for allegedly seeking to hijack a cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden.
The suspects, aged 25 to 45, were arrested on January 2 last year after their high-speed boat with firearms was intercepted by a Danish frigate as they were allegedly preparing to board the Dutch Antilles-flagged Samanyolu.
The Netherlands issued European arrest warrants for the five three weeks later, and they were flown on a military plane from the Gulf state of Bahrain the following month to the Netherlands, where they have been in custody since.
A defence lawyer has said the five men would challenge the jurisdiction of Dutch courts to try the case.
The cargo vessel "was registered in the Dutch Antilles," Haroon Raza told AFP.
The Antilles has its own justice system, "there is thus no reason to have a trial in the Netherlands."
Raza, who represents alleged pirate Osman Musse Farah, said the men would also raise the length of their pre-trial detention.
"My client has a wife and two children; and one of them was born while he was in the Netherlands. He complains because he cannot answer their needs."
At a hearing in May last year to determine whether the men should remain in custody, another lawyer for the suspects told the court "the pirates are poor fishermen who acted out of pure despair".
But Ward Ferdinandusse argued for the prosecution at the time that "we mustn't forget the interests of the ships and their crew who were shot at and held hostage".
The trial is expected to last five days and judgment is set to be handed down on June 16, said Vincent de Winkel, a spokesman for the Rotterdam district court.
The men could be jailed for up to nine years, and their leader for up to 12 years.
According to the London-based International Maritime Bureau, which monitors maritime crime, pirates had attempted 217 attacks on merchant ships off the Somali coast in 2009, out of 409 pirate attacks worldwide.
Many of the suspects arrested in military operations in the Gulf of Aden in recent years have had to be set free for a lack of evidence.
"It is very difficult to obtain evidence against pirates unless they are caught in the act," Bibi van Ginkel, a legal expert at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, Clingendael, told AFP.
"In the Gulf of Aden, fishermen also carry arms."
Last Tuesday, a Yemeni court sentenced six Somali pirates to death and jailed six others for 10 years each for hijacking a Yemeni oil tanker and killing two cabin crew in April last year.

19 May 2010

Somali pirate admits guilt in U.S. court

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NEW YORK, May 19 (UPI) -- A young Somali pirate has pleaded guilty in New York in a rare U.S. prosecution of a high-seas hijacker.
Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Tuesday to charges he helped commandeer the American-flagged cargo ship Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia last year and took its captain hostage, The New York Times reported.
The high seas hijacking was ended by U.S. Navy SEALs after a five-day standoff, when sharpshooters killed three of the pirates.
"What we did was wrong," Muse said in court speaking through an interpreter. "I am very, very sorry for the harm we did. The reason for this is the problems in Somalia."
Muse, believed to be a teenager, is to be sentenced Oct. 19. Prosecutors said they would seek a sentence of at least 27 years with a maximum of nearly 34 years.
Douglas B. Stevenson of the Center for Seafarers' Rights at the Seamen's Church Institute of New York and New Jersey told the Times the case is "a very important step" in the fight against piracy.
"Every country in the world has an obligation to help eradicate piracy, and has the jurisdiction to prosecute pirates wherever they're found," he said. "Right now, it's a pretty low-risk, high-reward endeavor to be a pirate in the waters off Somalia."

Six Somali Pirates Sentenced To Death In Yemen

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Six Somali pirates, captured by Yemeni forces in April last year, were sentenced to death by a Yemen court on Tuesday. Six others were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and together must pay $2 million compensation for hijacking an oil tanker.

On April 26, 2009, they hijacked the Yemeni ship Qana, owned by Adan Refinery Company, near the coast of Yemen. Yemeni forces recaptured the ship and took 12 pirates prisoner, but two crew members were killed in the struggle.

Somalia has lacked effective government since Gen. Siad Barre was violently ousted in 1991. Amidst the instability pirates began terrorizing ships passing through the Gulf of Aden for the coast of Somalia.

Since 2005 groups like the International Maritime Organization have expressed concerns about piracy, and for the last two years 20 countries have been engaged in actively repressing acts of piracy by military force.

In spite of this, piracy is increasing, the territory in which it takes place is expanding, weapons are modernizing, and pirates’ self-organization is improving.

One of the major enablers for these shifts has been the lack of legal follow up. When pirates are captured in international waters they cannot be tried under international law, and have to be tried in the country of the captor. Many legal systems are not well equipped to deal with pirates, which is why last week the Russian navy put captured pirates in an inflatable boat, confiscated their weapons, and cast them adrift on the ocean.

Last April a resolution was approved that appealed to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to create in three months a draft of an international legal framework for countering sea piracy. It is hoped that it will end the legal troubles that allow pirates to be on the loose.

EU High Representative Pushes Kenyan Commitment to Combat Piracy

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The European Union Foreign Affairs and Security Chief says she has secured Kenya's commitment to prosecute pirates during a four-day visit to the region.  

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton met with Kenyan officials in the past two days to discuss collaborative efforts to combat piracy off of the Somali coast.

Kenya has been a focal point in the fight against international piracy.  Hijackings often occur in or near Kenyan waters and the east African nation has agreed with a number of countries, including the United States and the European Union, to detain pirates captured by international patrols. 

Kenya has prosecuted scores of pirates during the past few years, but last month announced it would not take any more, saying the burden put an undue strain on its limited resources and overstretched judicial system.  Kenya has asked for more international support, but has refused to publicly specify what that support would entail. 

In a news conference with Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetang'ula, Ashton said progress has been made on the issue of burden sharing.

"We had fruitful and good discussions to reconcile the immediate issues," said Catherine Ashton. "That was to agree on an understanding that Kenyans will continue to deal with pirates but with the recognition that there is more that we need to do to support, internationally, those efforts."

Ashton assured Kenyans a regional and international approach would be part of that support, and highlighted a newly established court in the Seychelles to demonstrate European commitment. 

Earlier this month, the government of Seychelles and the European Union announced the establishment of a regional center to combat piracy that includes a special court. 

Critics have pointed out the Seychelles court has an even more limited capacity to detain and prosecute pirates than its Kenyan counterpart, but Ashton clarified the court is merely a piece in a multifaceted approach to the issue.  

The two also discussed the capacity of the Somali government.  Foreign Minister Wetang'ula said stabilizing Somalia would be a key component in any attempt to stop pirates from attacking ships off of the east-African coast. 

"Piracy off the Somali coast is not born at sea; it is born on land," said Moses Wetang'ula. "And to fight piracy successfully we must focus on how to assist our brothers and sisters in Somalia, find a degree of normalcy so that they can have a functional government and emerge from the unenviable status of a failed state."

Ashton said the Somali crisis would be specifically addressed at an international conference this weekend in Istanbul.

The EU High Representative will travel to Tanzania before arriving in the Seychelles to attend a regional forum on piracy prevention.  

Cameroon attacks show pirates are heading south

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Reuters) - An attack by gunmen on two ships anchored off Cameroon's major port of Douala shows pirates are extending their range in the Gulf of Guinea, an increasingly important source of oil to western markets.
Two Russian nationals from the cargo ship North Spirit and a Lithuanian captain from another vessel, Argo, were seized in the back-to-back raids May 16, according to the Russian Seafarer's Union and the owner of Argo.
RSU spokesman Vadim Ivanov said there had been no contact as yet with the attackers.
Lithuania-based Limarko Shipping, which owns the Argo refrigerated vessel, said in a statement that gunmen robbed the ship's safe and abducted the captain.
Cameroonian authorities were not immediately available to comment.
The raid was the latest in a string of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea -- which stretches from the Guineas in the northwest to Angola in the south -- and marked a shift beyond the Cameroon-Nigeria maritime frontier where most attacks have been clustered.
"There seems to be a pattern emerging. They are moving south," said Rolake Akinola, Africa analyst at Eurasia Group. "It is obviously a real concern. Douala is the hub for the CEMAC (Central African Economic and Monetary Community) region. Insecurity appears to be following increased investor activity."
Douala's port serves land-locked Chad and Central African Republic, as well as some parts of the two Congos.
Cameroon last month blamed piracy for part of a 13 percent slide in oil production in 2009. The country's output averaged 73,000 barrels per day last year, down from 84,000 bpd in 2008.
The Gulf of Guinea is also home to major oil producers Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea as well as soon-to-be exporter Ghana.
Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea are not on the scale of those off Somalia, where pirates are earning tens of millions of dollars from seizing merchant vessels, but analysts say the insecurity off West Africa could affect shipping and investment.
"Oil companies won't stop doing business because of piracy but we may see much more caution," Akinola said. "It could exacerbate an already downward trend of production."
The U.S. military is training West and Central African navies and coast guards to combat piracy, drug smuggling and illegal fishing in the Gulf of Guinea -- a region Washington estimates will supply a quarter of U.S. oil by 2015.
Ivanov said the seized Russians included chief engineer Igor Shumik, who was among the 15 sailors aboard the Arctic Sea vessel that vanished for nearly a month last summer and which Russian authorities said had been hijacked by pirates near Sweden before being intercepted by the Russian Navy.
The other missing Russian is Boris Tersintsev, the North Spirit's captain, Ivanov said.

Somalia pirates' clash with Russian navy reveals a gap in rule of law

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Nato warship destroys pirate boats in Somali Basin

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A Royal Navy warship on Nato anti-piracy operations has destroyed two pirate boats in the Somali Basin, Nato has said.
HMS Chatham's helicopter spotted a larger vessel towing the two attack boats in the Somali Basin, about 150 miles off Tanzania, on 14 May, it said.
After monitoring the vessels overnight, a Royal Marine team launched a "well-planned operation" at dawn, it said.
Ten Somalis surrendered and the two smaller boats were destroyed.
Commander Simon Huntington, commanding officer of Devonport-based HMS Chatham, said he was "extremely pleased" the warship had "successfully disrupted a pirate attack group operating in the Somali Basin and prevented them from mounting attacks against merchant shipping".
'Considerable fuel'
He said: "This clearly demonstrates Nato's determination and commitment to continue the fight against piracy in the region."
Nato said prior to boarding the boats, the suspected pirates had been observed throwing items, including their weapons and other piracy related equipment, into the sea.
When the Royal Marine team boarded the larger craft, 10 Somalis and a large amount of fuel were found on board.
The two smaller boats had been fitted with powerful outboard engines and also contained a considerable amount of fuel.
Once separated from the larger craft by the Royal Marines team, the warship and its Lynx helicopter destroyed the smaller craft so the suspected pirates could not continue with their mission.
Nato said the 10 Somalis were left with only enough fuel in the larger vessel to return to Somalia.
The search was coordinated with a EU Naval Force Maritime Patrol Aircraft, operating out of the Seychelles.

Political and military solution to piracy problems in Somalia

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Addressing pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden at a headquarters press conference, Rear Admiral Peter Hudson, Operations Commander of the European Union Naval Force in Somalia (EU NAVFOR) — Operation Atalanta said European forces protected humanitarian aid arriving to Somalia on World Food Program (WFP) vessels; ensured supply of African Union logistics lines into Mombasa, Kenya; and protected the 30,000 or so ships that passed annually through the Gulf of Aden, among the world's busiest trade arteries. Hudson said attacks had fallen from 20 per month in the summer of 2009, to between 4 and 5 today, expressing hope that other countries would share in the asset-sapping task of combating the problem.
Over the last six months, 32 WFP ships had been escorted into Somalia, delivering 350,000 tons of food to displaced persons. African Union troops had been safeguarded and European forces had partnered with companies to provide security advice and coordinate activity.
In the Gulf of Aden, ship seizures — which had numbered nearly 25 in 2008 — had led to various Security Council resolutions and involved naval forces from China, the Russian Federation, and Japan, he explained. Work in the Somali Basin was organized around monsoon season. Usually, the period between February and May saw a huge surge in the number of vessels put to sea for piracy. This year, European forces had dismantled over 60 pirate groups and processed some 400 suspects — three times the number seen last year.
As there were not many avenues for prosecution, he said European forces must destroy equipment and ensure that suspects were returned home. “It's a long progress,” he said, noting that work was done through cooperation, dialogue with industry and, from a European Union perspective, a comprehensive political and military solution to piracy problems in Somalia.
Fielding a question on Somali pirates set adrift in the Gulf of Aden after an attempted attack on a Russian vessel, Mr. Hudson called that type of situation challenging. Some occasions were appropriate for such action. The experience of the Russian vessel was not without precedent, he said, citing similar instances involving Dutch and Danish ships. He could not comment on the individual operation, but, from European Union perspective, ensuring that the pirates were treated appropriately would be at the forefront of any operation.
To a critique that international forces had not paid sufficient attention to illegal fishing, he said such concerns were often aired as justification for piracy. The European forces' joint action plan had been amended so that fishing vessels were identified 200 miles off the Somali coast, and that such information would be relayed. He did note, however, that very little fishing activity had been seen inside 200 miles of the Somali coast, whether by Japanese or Spanish boats, or by local subsistence fishing communities. To a question on how many captured pirates had been released, he said that, of 400 captured over about three months, 40 had gone on to prosecution.
Asked how equipped the European forces were to collect evidence, especially in the push to prosecute people, he said the heart of the matter involved ensuring that institutions were prepared to exercise their duties. Not many European States were prepared to bring pirates back for prosecution, and he was grateful for the efforts by Kenya and the Seychelles in that regard. European forces worked to ensure that any evidential package prepared was in line with what institutions could handle.
Responding to a query on the latest tactics, he said pirates were tenacious and fearless, as traveling 600 or 700 miles off the Somali coast took courage. Generally, between 60 and 70 pirate groups would flood an area. They had seized a significant number of Taiwanese fishing vessels, which he suspected would be used to launch other attacks. They had adapted and refined their methods, allowing them more flexibility on the high seas.
Moreover, he said that pirates were often only 14 or 15 years old. The allure of lucrative, life-changing ransom money was attractive. He had come across many pirate ships that were in mechanical failure and a perilous humanitarian situation and who actually had to be rescued.
Asked about any interviews conducted with former captives, he said the European forces worked with major merchant trade organizations and international chambers of shipping to ensure that, when vessels were released, the events of the attack could be recorded. That dialogue was important to European and other maritime forces.
To a question on the level of humanitarian aid into Somalia, he said the Al Shabaab insurgent group had forced WFP to scale back its activities. WFP shipments had to travel north from the WFP distribution centre in Mombasa and the European forces were trying to work with the flag States of ships taking part, perhaps in placing military forces on humanitarian vessels.
As for Kenya's decision to stop prosecuting pirates, he said those pirates transferred to Kenya over the last year continued to be processed. Brussels had a team in the region and the High Representative of the European Union would tour both Kenya and the Seychelles, among other places, to discuss that issue.

Somali pirates seize Greek ship

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Pirates have seized a Greek-owned ship with 23 people on board in the Gulf of Aden, the ship's managers say.
The Eleni P, which is managed by Eurobulk, was carrying a cargo of iron ore from the Black Sea to China.
Eurobulk's Marcos Vassilikos told the BBC that pirates fired shots when they took the ship, but that the crew were not thought to have been injured.
Somali pirates have hijacked dozens of ships this year, despite the presence of international naval forces.
The Eleni P's crew included 19 Filipinos as well as two Greeks, one Ukrainian and one Romanian, Mr Vassilikos said.
BBC map
He said the ship was seized at about 0600 GMT, off the coast of Somalia.
War and weak government in Somalia have allowed piracy to flourish along its coast, with frequent attacks on the busy shipping lanes that link Europe and Asia.
On Tuesday, Somali pirates released an 11,000-tonne refrigerated cargo ship that had been held for two months, after a ransom was paid.

Leaders want pirate ships, finances targeted

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FORT PICKETT, Va. — Pirate battles could be in store for soon-to-deploy Marine expeditionary units, but Marine and Navy leaders say that defeating piracy requires a multipronged approach that also targets financial and logistics networks.
“It’s not bad work to go shooting up pirates that are trying to board ships,” Col. Mark J. Desens, the 26th MEU’s commander, said during predeployment training here in early April. “Until something better comes along, we’ll be satisfied doing that.”
But that’s only part of the solution, said Desens, who is preparing for a likely float around the Horn of Africa.
“The [pirate] in the skiff is not making $5 million for every ransom,” he said. “Somebody else is getting that money, so … we need to trace the money back and go find that guy.”
Earlier this year, Col. David W. Coffman, commander of the 13th MEU, offered a point-blank solution to piracy problems.
“The answer is perfectly simple: Kill the pirates,” Coffman said in February, about seven months after the 13th MEU returned from patrolling off Africa’s east coast.
Other military leaders, however, have echoed the call for a comprehensive approach.
Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, the commander of Naval Forces Europe, said there needs to be a concerted, international effort to establish order in destabilized countries such as Somalia.
It is too expensive for U.S. warships to continue indefinitely patrolling for pirates in waters off the Horn of Africa, Fitzgerald told Pentagon reporters in April.
Meanwhile, Marines and sailors at sea continue the task of targeting the pirate crafts and detaining those they can apprehend. A new policy issued last summer redefined the MEU’s core capabilities to include an emphasis on maritime interception operations including counterpiracy.
Since then, MEUs have engaged pirates in high-profile cases including the seizure of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama a year ago. Coffman and the 13th MEU were called in for support after Somali pirates seized the ship and took its captain hostage.
In February 2009, a detachment from the 26th MEU sent to the Gulf of Aden ran a brig for suspected pirates.
Marines with the 26th MEU are now training aboard Navy ships near Norfolk, Va. They plan to deploy again sometime in the coming fall and likely will travel through the Mediterranean and on to the Central Command area of operations, which includes pirate-infested waters off Africa’s east coast.
The West Coast-based 15th MEU completed its predeployment exercises in late April. They likely will travel through the Middle Ea

UN chief urges new global fight against piracy

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UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling for stepped-up global action to combat the "alarming" increase in pirate attacks, which topped 400 last year.
The U.N. chief told a General Assembly meeting on piracy Friday that the largest concentration of attacks has been off the coast of East Africa.
Rear Admiral Peter Hudson of the European Union Naval Force trying to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia said that between February and May, there has been "a huge surge" in the number of vessels going to sea for piracy.
Ban called for a reassessment of what's working and what needs to be improved to combat piracy.

Middlemen negotiate pirate ransoms

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NAIROBI, Kenya — It's a job few people can list on their resume: pirate middleman.
A Somali who used to import soft drinks and didn't go beyond the seventh grade says he's made hundreds of thousands of dollars brokering deals to free ships and their valuable cargos after pirates attack.
The 32-year-old Somali, who would be identified only by his alias, Abdi Sheik, says he helped gain the release earlier this year of a supertanker carrying an estimated $150 million of crude oil. He claims to have successfully negotiated the release of an arms-laden Ukrainian ship and the 20 sailors onboard.
In an interview with The Associated Press, he tried to justify his role, downplaying that he was dealing with criminals and that his own actions may be dubious.
"I'm just helping poor sailors caught up in a tag-of-war between greedy pirates and selfish ship owners," Sheik insisted. "I don't think I'm a criminal because I'm not part of the doers nor part of the receivers."
Sheik allowed himself to be identified by only an alias for fear of reprisals or possible pursuit by Interpol. Details of his accounts of being a middleman could not be entirely verified, but Sheik has previously provided AP with reliable inside information about hijacked ships and a business associate confirmed his involvement in ransom negotiations.
Piracy is big business in Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991. Somali pirates have collected far more than $100 million in the last several years. The International Maritime Bureau says sea attacks worldwide surged 39 percent in 2009 to 406 cases, the highest in six years.
Sheik, who hails from northeastern Somalia where the pirates are based, refused to specify how much he's made as a middleman but indicated it is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He described meetings held inside dark SUVs in which trust was scarce. Multimillion-dollar ransoms are haggled over like carpets at a market, he said.
Sheik said he first got into the business when a casual acquaintance from his clan called to ask for his help in releasing a Ukrainian vessel and its 20 crew members who were hijacked in September 2008. The job grew from there and by December 2009 he was being asked to help free the Greek oil supertanker Maran Centaurus.
The pirates started off asking for $9 million that time. Sheik, who was acting as a go-between for the negotiating teams, said that after weeks of back-and-forth he suggested to the Greek ship owner's negotiators that they try offering $4.5 million. Sheik said the pirates responded: "Add one more million and the deal is done."
Nearly two weeks after that over-the-phone deal was sealed, planes dropped $5.5 million encased in floatable boxes. The supertanker was freed the next day.
Somali pirates receive about 30 percent of ransoms they receive — on average $1 million to $2 million per boat, according to a 2009 memo prepared by the staff of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee that was based on an interview with a captured pirate. Another 30 percent is spent bribing local officials, 20 percent goes to group bosses and the rest goes toward things like guns, ammunition, fuel, food and cigarettes.
Sheik says self-styled negotiators like him try to get involved once there's been a report of a new hijacking, contacting a ship owner to say the vessel can be released for a daily negotiating fee. Middlemen typically are paid directly by the ship owners.
Analyst Roger Middleton of the London-based Chatham House said the average ransom has spiked_ from $1 million two years ago to $2 million last year. Pirates are also believed to have netted as much as $7 million from one recently hijacked ship, he said

12 May 2010

Somali pirates hijack vessel with 19 Indians on board

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NEW DELHI: In yet another strike, Somali pirates have seized one more vessel with 22 crew, including 19 Indians, on board in the Gulf of Aden.

With the seizure of this vessel, the number of Indians held hostage by the pirates has gone up to 57 as 38 are already in their captivity for over a month.

"We have received information that a chemical tanker M V Marida Marguerite with 22 crew members - 19 Indians, 2 Bangladeshis and 1 Ukrainian - has been hijacked in the Gulf of Aden yesterday," a senior official told PTI.

The tanker en-route from Kandla in Gujarat to Antwerp in Belgium was carrying approximately 11,000 MT of chemicals, he said.

"The Shipping Directorate is in contact with the managers of the vessel for regular updates and measures have been initiated for early and safe release of the crew and vessel," he said.

The official said more information regarding the hijacking could be expected in the next three to four days.

In the past negotiations involved the owners, seafarers' bodies and pirates, without any government representative.

Somali pirates had seized 11 dhows (slow-moving vessels) with over 120 Indians on board over a month ago.

Of them, five vessels, including a dhow, and 38 Indians continued to be in their custody.

Repeated attacks on Indian vessels had also prompted the government to issue warning to dhows about the dangers in those waters, particularly along the sea-lanes of Salalah and Male.

The merchandise conducted on seas is worth about USD 110 billion annually, with Indians being the major players. 

Asian sailors tell of pirate ordeal

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HANOI — In his seven years at sea, Afrizal had never been attacked by pirates -- until one night late last month.
Armed attackers stole aboard the tugboat Atlantic 3 in Indonesian waters near Singapore on April 27, Afrizal and his captain told AFP, in what an analyst said was part of an upsurge of attacks in that area.
"All of us were tied up and put in a room," said Afrizal, 40, a native of Indonesia's Sumatra, who uses only one name. "Our eyes were covered."
The room became their cell for several days, until they were cast adrift in a life raft, he told AFP.
Afrizal, one of six Indonesian and two Malaysian crewmen, said they wondered if they would be killed.
"We were very afraid," he said from Vung Tau in southern Vietnam, after the crew were rescued by the Vietnamese navy.
Myint Shwe, the tug's Myanmar captain, said the drama began after they took on fuel in southern Malaysia's Johor state. The 300-tonne Malaysian-registered tug was towing an empty barge from Thailand to Indonesia, he said.
About 35 nautical miles into their journey from Johor, they were boarded by the seven pirates, Myint Shwe said.
"We did not see their boat. It was night time," said the 55-year-old skipper.
He and Afrizal said the robbers, armed with a gun and machete, spoke Indonesian and Malaysian.
They stole money and personal items including shoes and socks, leaving the men with only the clothes on their backs, they said.
"They took everything," Afrizal said.
But their captors brought them food and the occasional cigarette, and allowed them out of the room for toilet breaks.
Freedom eventually came but with it, more fear, Afrizal said -- they were cast adrift at night in a rubber raft.
Their drama finally ended the next day, May 3, when a vessel from the Vietnamese navy spotted them under clear skies.
"We were extremely happy we got help," said Afrizal.
ReCAAP, a Singapore-based international piracy monitoring agency, said the navy responded to a distress signal from the life raft.
"The crew was reported to be in a state of fatigue, but overall well," the agency said.
Initial investigation indicates the sailors were set adrift near the Spratly islands in the South China Sea, said ReCAAP, which aims to enhance cooperation between governments against piracy and armed robbery in Asian waters.
Efforts were still being made to locate the tug and its barge.
While the overall piracy situation in Southeast Asia and the Malacca Strait has improved in recent years, attacks in the area where the Atlantic 3 was boarded have been on the rise recently, according to Sam Bateman, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
An increased number of tugs and barges ferry sand from neighbouring countries to the city-state through that area, and the tugs make an easier target than larger vessels because they are slow-moving, Bateman said.
ReCAAP said the Atlantic 3 was the third tug reported missing this year.
The Malacca and Singapore Straits are among the world's busiest commercial waterways and were once the global hotspot for pirate attacks.
Security has improved substantially in recent years, partly thanks to coordinated patrols by nations bordering the waterway.
Throughout Asia, ReCAAP recorded 25 pirate attacks or attempted attacks for the first three months of this year, up from 15 reported for the same period last year. Most involved vessels at anchor or in port, it said.
"Generally, these attacks are just hit-and-run," in which the pirates steal personal effects, Bateman said.
Pirates obviously have seafaring skills, and could be sailors who lost their jobs during the global economic crisis, he added. Slower world trade last year left hundreds of vessels at anchor.
"There are a lot of ships laid up these days and a lot of seafarers without work," Bateman said.
Afrizal and Myint Shwe said they are not about to join their idle colleagues. Seafaring is what they do, they said, and a bunch of pirates will not stop them from returning to the water.
"No, I'm not afraid," said the captain. "I'm a seaman."