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Sat Nov 01 04:34:12 SAST 2014

Somali Piracy becoming an industry

Sapa-AFP | 01 July, 2011 10:05
A Bosun's Mate stands guard near the gangplank on board the Royal Navy ship HMS Albion at Mina Zayed port in Abu Dhabi
A Bosun's Mate stands guard near the gangplank on board the Royal Navy ship HMS Albion at Mina Zayed port in Abu Dhabi, where Albion, together with the frigate Sutherland and other ships, will take part in a joint exercise with the United Arab Emirates' navy. Efforts to combat piracy off the Somali coast have reduced the number of successful attacks on merchant ships, though the battle is far from over, a senior British navy officer says.
Image by: JUMANA EL HELOUEH / REUTERS

Somali pirates are taking 'f piracy to an industrial scale' says Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre.

The centre has been monitoring incidents worldwide since 1991.

Mukundan said the pirates were using hijacked vessels as bases to extend their range of operations against ships in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden.

In March the Indian navy captured 61 heavily armed pirates aboard a hijacked Mozambique-flagged ship in the Arabian sea which was being used as a mothership.

Piracy has surged in recent years off Somalia, a lawless, war-torn country that sits alongside one of the world's most important shipping routes.

The IMB is concerned that some countries which have deployed naval assets off the Horn of Africa may cut their anti-piracy surveillance in the area.

The impact

Mukundan, who is based in London, told AFP that so far this year there were 162 attacks off Somalia with 21 ships captured.

Hijackings off the coast of the east African country accounted for 61 percent of all attacks on ships, with 362 crew members taken hostage, he said.

Mukundan said Somali pirates were still holding 21 vessels and 405 hostages for ransom.

"Since 2007 there has been 62 fatalities as a result of piracy," he said, adding that "the situation is getting very serious."

"We are calling for more naval ships be made available to protect ships off Somalia," he said.

Mukundan said this year despite the monsoon period (June to August), Somali pirates had escalated their attacks off the Gulf of Aden.

"It is an important shipping lane for very large crude carriers which sail from the Arabian Gulf to Asian countries such as Japan, China and Singapore," he said.

In previous years, there was a respite in attacks during the monsoon period due to strong winds and heavy seas.

Violence and ransoms rise

Mukundan said another worrying trend was the increase in violence against seafarers and hostages in the past six months.

In one incident, Mukundan said two senior officers were put in a ship's meat storage refrigerator for 40 minutes and in an another case pirates carried out mock executions.

"The violence and threat used is unprecedented and unacceptable," he said.

Mukundan warned that the IMB expects the number of attacks to be higher than last year.

"Pirates are getting more ransom, so they are escalating their attacks," he said.

Mukundan urged countries to prosecute pirates captured at sea and not to release them.

"We want captured pirates to be prosecuted and punished. Now more than 80 percent of the captured pirates are freed. It is sending the wrong signal to the pirates," he said.

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