Somali pirates shift tactics, strike more frequently

As the Christian Science Monitor has pointed out, the pirates seem to be conducting a bit of a “surge” themselves:  article posted yesterday

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The Associated Press has reported that whilst pirate attacks receeded during the first quarter of 2009 – perhaps due to the large increase in international naval presence in the region – they’ve come back with a vengeance and hijacked 5 ships in the last 3 days. 

Using a new strategy, they are operating further away from warships patrolling the Gulf of Aden.   And they no longer have to contend with the choppy waters that always plague the seas off Somalia in the early part of the year.

Now, analysts say, the pirates have moved many of their operations further south, targeting ships as they come out of the Mozambique Channel.

One reason is that surveillance in the Gulf of Aden is higher, with unmanned drones, helicopters and aircraft flown from shore. The helicopters have frequently intervened in attacks, firing at gunmen or even picking up crew members who jumped overboard.

Cmdr. Jane Campbell of the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet, which monitors piracy in the Gulf of Aden, said “international navies alone will never be the complete solution to piracy.  Even with the increasing number of international navies operating in the area, it’s a vast region — you’re talking about an area that’s well over a million square miles … The closest naval vessel could be days away,” she said. 

(On the BBC website, there’s a diary of duty aboard a frigate on anti-piracy patrol)

The pirates are trained fighters who frequently dress in military fatigues and use speedboats equipped with satellite phones and GPS equipment. They are typically armed with automatic weapons, anti-tank rocket launchers and various types of grenades. Far out to sea, their speedboats operate from larger mother ships.

 pirate1 pirates1 africanpirate3 pirate-boat 

A total of 14 vessels and about 200 crew members are currently under the control of pirates, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Arrayed against them are an increasing number of ships from navies around the world – including a NATO Task Force and ships from the navies of India, Russia, China and Japan.  The last three being especially noteworthy.

So far, no country – or alliance of countries – have been cleared to go ashore to launch operations against the pirate bases and/or safe harbours.  Also, all (?) of the commercial vessels that have been released so far have been becuase ransoms were paid – commercial shipping companies generally prefer to pay the ransom and claim the insurance, than to approve an assualt on the ship and risk damage and loss of life.

Chinese Frigate on patrol

Chinese Frigate on patrol

 

US Navy RIB intercepts a suspected pirate boat.

A NATO Navy (US or Dutch?) RIB intercepts a suspected pirate boat.

 

Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force personnel engaged in an anti-piracy exercise prior to sailing for the Horn of Africa last year.  Or are they just arresting these guys for wearing dodgy camouflage?  ;-)

Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force and Maritime Safety Agency personnel engaged in an anti-piracy exercise prior to sailing for the Horn of Africa last year. Or are they just arresting these guys for wearing dodgy camouflage? 😉



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