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Weekly Piracy Report

March 19, 2012 - 09:01:51 UTC


10 - 16 March 2012

Numbers game: Focus on the figures relating to the reduction of piracy raises a few eyebrows. Pirates attack Somali police commander. Reformed pirate tells his tale. Ransom negotiations stall. Ghana Navy arrests tanker stealing oil. EU calls for international rules on the use of armed guards as Egypt updates rules for passage of vessels with armed guards, weapons and ammunition. UK Defence Minister reiterates unity with UAE, whilst US State Department says not enough is being done to fight piracy, but India's efforts impresses the international community. South Africa commits to helping Somalia with hopes of SA hostages being released as a consequence. Yemen's maritime borders face increasing tension with Somalia and Eritrea. Families of MT Ashphalt Venture crew beg for help. Claims by a risk consultancy company that pirates 'like to tweet'.

Regional Activity

East Africa

The EU Naval Force on Thursday said that piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia have significantly dropped by more than 68 percent since September last year - Safety4Sea.
EU Force Commander, Rear Admiral Jorge Manso, attributed this reduction to what he called "better cooperation and coordination" of the major three forces tackling piracy off the coast of Somalia-the EU Naval Forces, NATO and some other countries like South Korea, Iran, India and China.
The force commander says there have been 28 pirate attacks since last September, with only four successful hijackings.
He said pre-emptive strikes by naval forces foiled over 20 pirates attacks before they could threaten commercial fleets in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. Read more.
Police from Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Galmudug fought with a group of pirates in Glakayo's Mudug region late Saturday, senior officials and pirates confirmed the incident to Somalia Report.
The fighting between Police and pirates began after an armed group of pirates attacked Galmudug's Ant-piracy commander Abdiweli Hirsi Hassan (Farabadane) and his colleagues. Police guards defended the commander and exchanged fire with the pirates, according to the commander.
"They attacked us as I was stepping out of a car and heading towards a hotel. They barred the entrance to the hotel and we were caught unawares. We fled and took cover before fighting back," Commander Abdiweli spoke to Somalia Report on phone.
Commander Abdiweli sustained injuries to his left hand when a shot aimed at him hit the pistol in his grip. The pistol exploded and severed two fingers on his left hand. He confirmed that one pirate was killed in the attack and two of his officers mildly injured. According to the commander, the pirates were heavily armed and had a well armed vehicle at the ready for their escape. They later left the area when the commander and his colleagues sought reinforcements. Read more.
The Islamic Republic of Iran's Navy has thwarted an attempt by the pirates to hijack an Iranian oil tanker in the vicinity of the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia - Press TV.
Iranian warships rushed to help the ‘Hatef’ tanker, which was attacked by pirates at the entrance of the Gulf of Aden, allowing it to safely pass through the danger zone. 
The tanker, sailing from Iran’s Khark Island to the Suez Canal, was attacked twice before the Iranian navy forced the pirate boats flee from the area.

Somalia piracy has been an international threat since 2008, and many international business ships have been hijacked by Somali pirates with huge ransoms demanded. Pirate activities were increasing until several nations communities declared war against the pirates, as a result of which, many warships were sent into Somalia's waters. The Somali areas most affected include Galmudug state, which launched a fight against pirates in its region, and in the process Somalia Report took an opportunity to interview Galmudug military commander Abdiweli Hassan Hersi. Read the full interview on anti-piracy, the policy for the detention of pirates and the Al Shabaab/Pirates link HERE.

Youth are a largely curious and impressionable lot who are prone towards the more dramatic and popular occupations and lifestyles. Many young men in Somalia would be very happy to be called a pirate, a Mujaheed or a militiaman, says Somalia Report. These titles portray power, influence and most importantly spread fear. He may find it difficult to tell you what exactly he seeks to achieve through his heartfelt struggles and initiatives. These social groups constantly draw their strength from an endless supply of youthful recruits. Within Somalia's poverty and battle ridden boundaries, a generation of youth who only understand the language of violence have emerged to claim these seemingly coveted and powerful roles in society.
Somalia Report interviewed Ibrahim Farah Osman, 26, who was once a pirate and is now reformed. He lives in Kakuma refugee camp, in Northern Kenya.
Life was completely different. I was a pirate for a short time between 2009 and 2010. I neglected myself and my family at large. I behaved irresponsibly and I admit it was not good. As a pirate, I was constantly exposed to dangers which I narrowly escaped. I once survived imminent death when we were attacked and a colleague of mine was shot dead. It happened so fast and when we least expected an attack. In summary, it was a dog's life and I dislike who and what I was then. Read full interview HERE.

A recent attack, reported last week in OCEANUSLive Weekly Piracy Report, in the Gulf of Aden where the Bahamas-flagged oil products tanker, Advance Victoria, came under attack by 1 skiff at 0519 UTC March 6, in position 14:20N - 052:45E. The attacking skiff was described as wooden and dark in colour. Stated that shots were fired by the chasing pirates, however, embarked armed security on board fired a single shot resulting in the skiff aborting the attack. Sources later reported that there was also a mothership which had released the skiff which headed directly towards the Advance Victoria. It had 6 armed personnel onboard with automatic weapons, which they used but no rounds hit the vessel due to the excessive range. The mothership had a dark stripe along the top 1/3 of its sides. The lower half was white. The small skiff had a rounded front and was dark in colour and able to travel in excess of 25knts. The MV had carried out all the precautions as per BMP4 and, therefore, managed to deter the pirates. A nearby NATO warship was informed of the encounter as well as other Merchant Vessels in the area. After the incident, another vessel was heard on VHF CH16 under distress further to the east ofAdvance Victoria's position in the vicinity of Point B of the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor. However, that incident was not reported, demonstrating the difficulty reporting authorities meet in establishing situational awareness to enhance safety in the region.

West Africa

The Ghanaian authorities have arrested an oil tanker- MV Madina allegedly conveying stolen crude oil from Nigeria, the Ghana Navy has said, reports Safety4Sea.

MV Madina was detained on Thursday at the Salt Pond Offshore Producing Company Limited (SPOCL), as it attempted to discharge hijacked crude oil from Nigeria into another vessel at the SPOCL. The Director of Public Relations of the Ghana Armed Forces, Colonel M'Bawine Atintande told journalists that guards have been deplored to secure the vessels at the oil fields.
The force image maker disclosed that the arrested ship would be entrusted to the ports authorities and the perpetrators shall face the wrath of the law.
MV Madina was hijacked while the vessel was in the process of lifting crude oil from a marginal oil producing field in Nigeria into a larger vessel, MV North Wind Grace. The captain and his crew absconded with the vessel.
Consequently, the owners of the vessel alerted the Benin and Ghana security and subsequently traced the ship to Ghana.
The Chief Executive Officer of Salt Pond Offshore Producing Company limited (SPOCL), Mr. Quincy Sintim Aboagye confirmed the incidence.
According to him, he received information about the hijacked crude from the owners ofMV Madina and promptly swung into action in order to foil the escape of the ship and the crew on board.
Two of the four newly commissioned Ghana Navy vessels have arrested a foreign Vessel, Merchant Tanker, Madina My Joy OnlineColonel M'Bwaine Atintande of Ghanaian Forces
The vessel loaded with fuel is reported to have been stolen from Nigeria. 
The Ghana Navy received hint from its Nigerian counterparts about the vessel and zoomed in to make the arrest. 
Director of Public Relations at the Ghana Armed Forces, Colonel M’Bawine Atintande told Joy News the vessel, MT Madina was arrested on Thursday at the Saltpond oil fields where it was transferring fuel to another vessel.
He said they will hand over the ship to the port authorities and legal action will be taken against the perpetrators by the appropriate authorities.
He said armed guards have been placed on alert at the oil fields to protect the vessels.
Image - My Joy Online.

Release by Pirates

Ransom negotiations for the hijacked Panama-flagged MV Leila were suspended after the Somali pirates holding the ship refused to accept the request of the company whose goods are on the vessel to release the ship without condition, reports Somalia Report.
Al-Istiqraar, which has rice, sugar and other commodities on board, said pirates demanded $2 million for the vessel and her crew of 24. In turn, the company refused and demanded MV Leila to be released immediately. The pirates refused, saying it has cost them a lot of money to run the operation and they need to be compensated for their investment, according to a representative for the ship.
Abdirisaaq Ali Mohamed, an agent for the Al-Istiqraar, told Somalia Report they suspended the talks with the pirates.
"This is unacceptable. We will not pay any ransom our own goods," said Mr. Abdirisaq. "Since the vessel is being held off the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, we referred the issue to Puntland President Abdirahman Farole and we are waiting for his response."Read more.


Convoys of ships with armed escorts could soon be operating in waters infested by Somalian pirates if a planned $70million (£45million) fundraising scheme succeeds, reports This is Money (Daily Mail). 
The Convoy Escort Programme – a proposal from insurance broking group Jardine Lloyd Thompson – aims to raise the sum over the next month in order to equip a fleet of up to 18 vessels to escort convoys of about four ships at a time through the highly dangerous Gulf of Aden and across the Indian Ocean.
The original intention was to get government or European Union funding for the programme, but when this did not materialise organisers decided to raise the money privately with the aim of forming a profit-making business.
Angus Campbell, chief executive of the CEP, said: ‘It is at a very active stage. We’ve done a lot of groundwork so we are ready when we raise the funds.’ He added: We hope to begin operations in the second half of this year.’ 
The CEP will buy insurance and use the cover to provide a guarantee to ship owners wishing to travel in convoys under its protection. Read more.
Internal Security Assistant minister Orwa Ojode yesterday told Parliament that the six police officers held in Comoros were on official duty. Ojode said the government has been in touch with the Comoros Foreign Affairs minister who assured that the officers were to be released by end of yesterday - AllAfrica.
The minister said the officers had been dispatched to provide security to a vessel that was transporting construction materials to Tanga. He said the Kenya Marine Ltd applied to be provided with private security for fear of pirates. He said the company applied for the security on February 12 and it was approved a day later. The minister said the company paid Sh57,600 and were provided with the six officers. Ojode told MPs that as the ship was heading to Tanga, it was accosted by Comoros authorities and due to language barrier, all those on board were arrested including the police officers.
He said the captain of the ship could not adequately communicate with the Comoros security officers when he was told to explain who was on board and what was being shipped. Ojode further said securing the release of the officers has been delayed by language barrier. "There has been a language barrier because those people speak French and French alone," said Ojode.
Ojode was responding to a question by Kamukunji MP Yusuf Hassan who sought to know if the minister was aware of the detention of the six Kenyan police officers by the Comorian authorities on February 25. He also sought to know under what circumstances the officers ended up on aboard the MV Squirrel and subsequently thousands of miles into Comorian territorial waters. Read more.

Following the incident of Italian marines onboard an oil tanker shooting dead two local fishermen off Kerala coast, the Directorate General of Shipping here has issued a notice, saying that merchant vessels should report the presence of armed guards to the Navy or the Coast Guard - Zee News
"All merchant ships are advised to report the presence of armed guards on board to Indian Navy or Indian Coast Guard," says the notice, signed by Captain Harish Khatri, Deputy Director General of Shipping, and issued on March 7. 
It also advises vessels to exercise extreme caution when approaching within 50 nautical miles of Indian coast. Read more.

The European Union called on Tuesday for international rules on the use of armed guards aboard ships amid a diplomatic spat between Italy and India over two Italian marines jailed in the south Asian country - Safety4Sea.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton discussed the issue with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in Brussels after the two oil tanker guards allegedly killed two Indian fishermen they mistook for pirates last month."She underlined the need to put this incident into the broader context of international co-operation on counter-piracy and more specifically on the issue of regulating the protection aboard ships," her office said in a statement.
Several nations have allowed shipping companies to hire armed guards to protect their ships sailing through pirate-infested waters off the Horn of Africa, stirring a debate about their use.The two Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, have been imprisoned in India's southern state of Kerala pending a murder investigation despite pressure from Italy for them to be handed over to Rome for prosecution.
Italy argues India does not have jurisdiction in the case as it involved an Italian-flagged vessel and occurred in international waters near India. Read more.
The West England P&I Club has been advised by Eldib Pandi, Alexandria of a further change in the requirements governing the carriage of weapons, ammunition and armed guards on vessels within Egyptian waters.
Following a recent Egyptian Ministry of Defence conference to discuss this issue, agents are now required to make a declaration 48 hours prior to arrival in the case of vessels which are due to call at Egyptian ports or transit the Suez Canal and have weapons, ammunition or armed guards on board. The agents are required to provide the Port Police, Military Intelligence, Coast Guard and Customs with a copy of the declaration. Also the Suez Canal Authority or the Port Authority, as applicable. The declaration shall include the following information:
  • Details of the weapons / ammunition on board including the number of weapons, their calibre and serial numbers as well as the quantity of ammunition
  • The nationalities of security personnel (armed guards)
  • Confirmation that the weapons and ammunition will be placed in a sealed box
If a vessel does not have weapons, ammunition and armed guards on board, the agent may require the Master to sign and stamp a form or statement to this effect.
The additional regulatory requirements as referred to in our earlier news article dated 22 February 2012 are also to be followed, and an updated free translation is reproduced for guidance HERE.
International Response

A major source of training for the Chinese Navy is the anti-piracy patrol off Somalia, where an international force keeps Somali pirates from interfering with shipping passing through the area. China has been participating in this operation since 2008. Each Chinese "naval escort task force" consists of one or two destroyers or frigates and one or two supply ships. The 11th such task force is now on its way to the Somali coast, and consists of a destroyer, a frigate and a supply ship. About 800 sailors are involved, 70 of the special operations personnel. Each task force spends four months off the Somali coast. This particular task force is the first from the North China Sea fleet. The other task forces have been drawn from the other two fleets (The East Sea and The South Sea) -Strategy Page.
Service in the Somali task forces is eagerly sought after because it is the most intensive and extensive available. The task force gets practice in long distance cruises (Somalia is 10,000 kilometers distant, and it takes two weeks to get there) and combat operations. Granted, the enemy rarely fires back, and is hard to find. But the crews get valuable experience in operating on the high seas and searching for an elusive foe.
There are 74 destroyers and frigates in the Chinese Navy, and it will take another 4-5 years for all of these ships to have an opportunity to serve off Somalia. But the important thing is that thousands of sailors have served on the task force, and they eventually spread throughout the fleet, providing a higher degree of skill and experience on the high seas. Read more.
Somali Embassy in Brussels, the capital of Belgium has officially been reopened and started holding services for Somali people in Europe countries, official said - Horn of Africa News.Somali Ambassador Nor Hassan Hussein
Somali ambassador for the European Union, Nor Hassan Hussein ‘Nor Adde’ confirmed to the National T.V the reopening of the Somali Embassy in Belgium saying that it started holding diplomatic services.
Nor Adde, the ambassador said, “The reopening of the embassy came after we did a lot of efforts as it was very necessary for Somali communities in European and they are the beneficiaries’.
Mr. Nor Adde indicated that there were some matters to be handled quickly in order Somali communities in European countries’ needs covered.
Nor Hassan Hussein was appointed to the ambassador of Italy and representative of European Union for Somali transitional federal government in 2009.
On my first official visit to the United Arab Emirates this week as Britain's Defence Secretary, I look forward to deepening and strengthening relations between our two countries, writes The National. The last Conservative government in Britain strengthened the relationship between us with the Defence Cooperation Accord of 1996, which set arrangements for our shared security and defence interests, one of Britain's largest defence commitments outside of NATO.
The current UK coalition government has committed itself to a process of reinvigorating that relationship and building upon it. My visit today is part of a determined effort to deepen and strengthen our ties.
Our two nations have many strategic interests that coincide - from commerce to regional security and from trade to diplomacy. The UAE is a trusted friend and a strong partner of the UK, with our countries working together in all of these areas, but first and foremost in diplomacy and security.
The UAE and the UK, as seafaring nations, both rely on free passage of trade to grow and maintain our economies. As major communications and logistics hubs, we both depend on unhindered freedom of movement in international waters.
In particular, the ability to sail safely in the waters around the UAE is crucial and the UK has been committed to helping to preserve peace in the region with a continuous Royal Navy presence in the Gulf since the 1980s. We will maintain that presence in the Gulf to keep sea lanes open and to provide support to our allies such as the UAE. HMS Daring, one of our newest and most formidable Type 45 destroyers, is currently on patrol along with a number of other Royal Navy vessels, including minesweepers.
The threats, of course, are not only close to home. Both nations are engaged in protecting shipping off the Horn of Africa to tackle the scourge of piracy and we worked together in the lead-up to the London Conference on Somalia last month. We are strong supporters of the conference on counter-piracy due to be held in UAE in June. We have to tackle this global challenge together. Read more.
By: James Marcus Bridger for Atlantic Council: One would be hard pressed to find an article analyzing Somali piracy—be it journalistic, academic, or militarily focused—that does not make the claim that this maritime problem can only be solved on land. In the four years that the international community has attempted to address this crisis, however, a coherent and coordinated onshore strategy has yet to emerge. The development of indigenous counter-piracy capacity in the affected states of the East African seaboard has, despite rhetoric to the contrary, received scant attention from donor states.  Authorities in the epicentres of Somali piracy—the autonomous states of Puntland and Galmudug—have largely been left to fend for themselves. Mistakenly, the international response to Somali piracy remains blinded by a military-centric focus on naval shows of force.
An American think-tank project, The Oceans Beyond Piracy report, calculated the total annual cost of counter-piracy military operations to be $1.27-billion USD. Using the same methodology, the annual operating cost of NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield has been placed at $293-million, while a figure of $450-million has been given for the EU’s Operation Atalanta. While both of these missions have been extended to the end of 2012, it is unlikely they will be able to continue indefinitely in an age of fiscal austerity and military cutbacks. Economic constraints have already forced the number of ships deployed to Operation Atalanta to fall “below the red line” of a six vessel deployment, according to EU Military Committee chairman, Hakan Syren. NATO was similarly forced to divert naval resources away from the Horn of Africa when they were need for operations off the coast of Libya. There is also the danger that naval efforts may fall victim to their own success: a drop in incidences of piracy may cause a scaled down naval presence, but as the pirate structures onshore would remain intact, the gangs would only have to wait for coalition forces to withdraw before returning to sea.
A sustainable solution to the piracy crisis therefore requires a coordinated strategy tailored to address the root causes that allowed the practice to take hold in Somalia’s pirate-prone states and flourish in the wider region. The explosion of piracy first witnessed in 2008 has been attributed to the decline of local institutions in the autonomous state of Puntland, particularly its inability to pay its once-effective police and coastguard forces. As security in Puntland has improved over the last two years, the piracy nexus has shifted south to the weaker sub-state of Galmudug. Offshore, the pirates have been able to expand the scope of their operations from the mouth of the Red Sea to the Mozambique Channel due to the underdeveloped maritime security capacity of regional states. As piracy expert Martin Murphy notes, effective policing at sea requires “boats well equipped with radar, communications, well trained and honest crews … shore based command and control facilities … reliable intelligence about pirate activity [and] air support and surveillance”, all measures which are prohibitively expensive for the developing states in the region to implement. Read more.

South Africa wants to learn how Oman has been able to protect its coastline, given the threat of piracy in the Mozambican Channel, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu said today after the signing of a defence co-operation memorandum with Oman's Minister of Defence Sayyid bin Saud bin Harib al-Busaidi - AllAfrica.
The Memorandum of Understanding, signed at the Castle in Cape Town on Tuesday, includes an agreement on technical co-operation, an agreement to share lessons around peace-keeping operations and the sale of military hardware to Oman by South Africa.
Sisulu said Oman had vital lessons to share with South Africa around maritime protection and pointed out that both countries were strategically placed on international sea routes between Asia and the rest of the world.
Oman was the first country in the Gulf to acquire military hardware from South Africa, and Sisulu encouraged her counterpart for Oman to continue doing so. Read more.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia has reduced by 40 per cent since the deployment of Kenya forces in the country, spurring tourism growth in the region, reports eTurboNews.Kenya navy officers take 24hr patrol with Somali waters at Ras Kamboni (Laban Walloga)
Kenya security officials said exclusive economic zones off the coast were now secure from attacks by Al-Shabaab, a wing of Al-Qaeda, which is suspected to have been behind the grenade attacks at the Machakos Bus Station in Nairobi on Saturday.
The attacks left six dead and 41 injured. At a joint meeting with the Defence and Foreign Relations committee of parliament, ministers George Saitoti (Internal Security), Yusuf Haji (Defence), Moses Wetang’ula (Foreign Affairs), and Chief of Defence Forces General Julius Karangi said Al-Shabab had disrupted the economy through abduction of maritime vessels and tourists.
“By the time we decided to go into Somalia, it was clear that Al-Shabaab was undermining both our security and the economy.
We today can report that the KDF has managed to deal a severe blow to Al-Shabaab.
There has not been any single case of piracy since then,” said Prof Saitoti
He said tourism arrivals at Mombasa port had increased following Kenya Navy patrols along the coastline and deep into the Indian Ocean. Read more.
Image - eTurboNews/Laban Walloga.
Somalia Report responded to the Kenyan Defence claim of reducing piracy by 40 percent, as follows. 
In comments to the media following a March 12 joint meeting with the parliamentary committee on Defence and Foreign Relations, Internal Security Minister George Saitoti claimed that piracy off the  coast of Somalia had dropped 40% since Kenyan forces entered Somalia last October, with "not... a single case of piracy since then." - Somalia Report.
This is not the first time that Kenyan officials have gotten creative with pirate numbers.
In 2009, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula claimed that pirates had earned $150 million the year prior, a figure roughly five times the reality. His motive for conjuring this number, I can only conjecture, was to draw international attention (and foreign aid dollars) to a problem that Kenya was eminently positioned to combat.
When Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) embarked on his much touted "pirate tour" of Puntland in April 2011, he first stopped over in Kenya to meet with government officials. The Kenyans' reputations must have preceded them, because Senator Kirk knew where to go for his made up numbers: right to Wetangula, who informed him that that 30% of ransom money (more than $50 million, apparently) was "funneled to the East African Al Qaeda/Al Shabaab Islamic terrorist groups." Read full response HERE.

We live in an era of complex, integrated, and on-demand global supply chains. People in countries around the world depend on secure and reliable shipping lanes for their medicine, their food, their energy, and consumer goods. By preying on commercial ships in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, piracy off the Horn of Africa threatens more than just individual ships. Piracy threatens the life blood of the global economy, and therefore global security and stability,says Assistant Secretary, Andrew J Shapiro, US Dept of State.
Piracy is an issue in which the private sector, and the maritime industry in particular, are on the front lines. Commercial shipping vessels provide a constant stream of targets for Somali pirates. Over the years, thousands of crew members have been taken hostage and many in the maritime industry have lost their lives as a result of piracy. I have heard directly from the captains and crews of commercial ships about the harrowing situations they encounter as they transport the goods and merchandise that make the global economy function.
The challenge posed by piracy off the coast of Somalia is immense and represents a major threat to regional security and the global economy. As international action has been taken to address the challenge, the pirates have adapted. Flush from the money made from ransom payments, pirate operations have become more sophisticated. For instance, the use of so-called “mother-ships” has expanded greatly. Mother-ships are themselves pirated ships with hostage crews on board, making attacking or liberating these ships a significant challenge. Mother-ships launch and re-supply groups of pirates who use smaller, faster boats for attacks. They can carry dozens of pirates and tow many skiffs for multiple simultaneous attacks. This has made pirates more effective at operating in seasonal monsoons that previously restricted their activities. This has also extended the pirates’ reach far beyond the Somali Basin. Somali pirates now operate in a total sea space of approximately 2.5 million square nautical miles. To put that in context that’s roughly the size of the continental United States.
Piracy is a threat that this Administration has been working hard to address. In response, we have pursued a multilateral and multi-dimensional approach that focuses on security, deterrence, diplomacy, and prevention. Read Assistant Secretary Andrew J Shapiro full remarks HERE.
U.S. shipping interests, scolded Tuesday by a State Department official for not doing enough to fight Somali pirates, flashed back that they need more Navy protection and must pay ransom demands or nobody will man ships.
At a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum on the surge in piracy off the Somali coast where 30,000 ships a year pass, the former head of the Pentagon’s Piracy Task Force 151 also chided the top State anti-piracy official for not knowing that cruise ships commonly pass through, comments Washington Examiner.
Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, said cruise ships don’t steer near the open waters off Africa’s coast because of the pirate threat. “For the most part, they are not transiting through high-risk areas,” he said, adding that none have been targeted by pirates. But retired Rear Adm. Terence McKnight, the former Task Force 151 boss, said the Queen Mary and many others sail the dangerous waters. “There have been a lot of cruise lines through there,” he said.
McKnight, concerned about proposed Navy budget cuts, also warned against reducing American and international warships patrolling the pirate basin. Without the ships, he said, “pirates will become more aggressive.”
Shapiro was also challenged over his demands that the industry stop paying ransoms and do more to protect ships, including hiring armed security. Mark Martecchini, managing director of Stolt Tankers, said if crews didn’t believe that owners would pay ransoms, they wouldn’t sign up for trips. “I think they would think twice before going,” he said. Read more.

Although some progress has been made in suppressing Somali maritime piracy, the fight continues -- mostly because this lucrative crime gives the pirates the financial ability to adopt more sophisticated technology to terrorize maritime vessels - AllAfrica.
When Somali pirates successfully hijack a commercial vessel, the average ransom is now at $4 million and has reached as much as $12 million, according to Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Ransoms paid in 2011 totaled $135 million, Shapiro said at a March 13 event sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Moreover, criminal investors interested in the ransom payoffs have added to the financial strength of the Somali piracy enterprise.
"The United States has a long tradition of opposing the payment of ransom," Shapiro said, "and we have worked diligently to discourage or minimize ransoms."
Nonetheless, Somali pirate operations have become flush from the money made from ransom payments and are more sophisticated, Shapiro said. As a result, Somali pirates now operate in a total sea space of approximately 2.5 million square nautical miles. Read more. [OL - No mention is made of the technology purported to be employed].
International shippers are "impressed" with the Indian military's confrontation of the piracy off the coast of Somalia and have expressed the appreciation of the efforts -Economic Times of India.
"We are very grateful to the efforts of the Indian military and their contribution to tackle the Somali piracy is really very impressive. The international shipping community is very pleased with that," Simon Bennett, director of external relations of the London-based International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), said.
He pointed out that piracy off Somalia was currently at the lowest level with about 200 seafarers held in captivity.
"However, this is totally unacceptable," he said. He also called on India to allow the embarkation and disembarkation of armed guards on merchant ships.
"We understand the sensitivities of the issues in India about people with arms and terrorism. But we are sure that working through the international community procedures can be agreed whereby it is possible to embark and disembark armed guards in India," said Bennett, who is here to attend the three-day Asia Pacific Maritime 2012 conference in Singapore which opened yesterday. Read more.
Military and civilian maritime professionals from West Africa, Europe, and the United States finalized a challenging training agenda for exercise Saharan Express 2012, March 14 - Defence Professionals.
This week's final planning conference at the Counternarcotics and Maritime Security (COSMAR) interagency operations center culminates previous months of close coordination to plan complex maritime interdiction operation (MIO) scenarios to be executed later this spring. 
"We live in a world that is confronted with many problems like piracy, drug trafficking, terrorism, organized crime," said Col. Alberto Ferdandes, chief of staff, Cape Verde armed forces. "It's necessary for each of us to find a solution to respond to these problems in an efficient manner, we need to have a communal response and it is important that we are all prepared so we can produce a unified action." 
Fernandes said he hopes exercise Saharan Express will offer each partner nation the opportunity to work together and establish interoperability in the region. Read more.
Piracy Costs


With over 2000 km of coastline rich with fish, the Yemeni maritime borders with Somalia and Eritrea have increasingly become a source of tension, comments Yemen Times
Yemeni fishermen have been increasingly vulnerable to assaults by Somali pirates and Eritrean maritime guards. This has been severely affecting the livelihoods of thousands of Yemeni fishermen since fishing is their main source of income.
Abdullah Ba Sonbol talks here with Mohamed Bin Sallam of the Yemen Times on these issues with more details and insights. 
What exactly is the problem between Yemen and Eritrea in the Red Sea particularly?
The basic problem between the Eritreans and us lies in their mistaken interpretation of the international court judgment concerning conventional fishing in shared water. They consider Yemeni fishermen as outsiders when they fish in international or Yemeni water near Yemeni islands, especially the Hanish Island that has been returned to Yemen in accordance with the arbitration verdict. They have not considered it as a historical right of Yemeni fishermen to fish in the water their ancestors have been fishing in for centuries. 
The Eritreans say that Yemeni fishermen go too deep into Eritrean water and do not stick to the limits set. Is that true?
This is not the essence of the disagreement. Eritrean fishermen are much fewer than those of Yemen, thus our fishermen catch greater amounts of fish. They [Eritrea] have the right to prevent Yemenis from going deeper than allowed or permitted. However, they attack and provoke our fishermen in the shared water and even in our water, kidnapping and extorting money from them.. 
This is a unilateral action although in accordance with international arbitration. There are no permits that should be held by Yemeni or Eritrean fishermen working in shared water. The boats of the two sides are known by their size and length. 
We've asked the Eritreans to agree with us on a mechanism to organize shared fishing. We were close to doing that, but they hesitated, although we agreed to impose a tax on large fishing dhows and to establish an Eritrean-Yemeni fishing company at 50/50 percentage. However, the company project faltered despite the fact that two meetings were conducted and some significant steps were reached in the process. We blame the Eritrean side because they stalled and stopped the project since 2005 despite our persistence for the good of the two countries.
What about fishing in the vicinity of Socotra Archipelago? 
There we face a difficulty with Somalis only. However, there is no problem either in the Arabian Sea or the 200 nautical miles of economic water. We have the right in accordance with the International Convention on the Law of the Sea to fish in an area extending 12 nautical miles in our territorial water. Yemen has full jurisdiction on both the territorial and economic water and we have the right to use the resources there by granting permissions. The 200nm applies in the Arabian Sea except in the case of borders with Somalia where the smaller distance is divided between the two sides according to the International Law of the Sea. Yemen intends now to demarcate maritime borders with Somalia in accordance with the International Law and the only obstruction here is the lack of a central Somali government with which we can deal or agree.  Read more.
South Africa has committed to allocate R100 million to the Somali government, which will go towards building adequate institutions of governance in that troubled country - Bua News.
The announcement was made on Tuesday and will see the South African government working with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and international partners to ensure that Somalia has adequate institutions of governance that will be sustainable beyond the TFG's mandate - which should ultimately see that country equipped to govern itself.
The R100 million will provide capacity and institution building, socio-economic support, as well as specified training in key government sectors, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told the media after her meeting with her Somali counterpart, Abdullahi Haji Hassan, in Pretoria. 
The meeting saw the official signing of an agreement for the establishment of diplomatic relations - a move that will coordinate interaction between the two countries. Read more.
Africa's economic powerhouse, South Africa has established diplomatic ties with Somalia and pledged millions to help the troubled Horn of Africa country - The Africa Report.
At a special press conference in Pretoria, the International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane met with her Somali counterpart, Abdullahi Haji Hassan.
The two signed an agreement for the establishment of diplomatic relations and South Africa also committed 100-million rand o help the transitional Somali government build adequate institutions of governance in Somalia.
Analysts say South Africa and Somalia are also hoping to resolve an impasse about the return of two South Africans being held hostage in the country. Bruno Pelizzari and his partner Debbie Calitz are being held by Somali Pirates.
Pirates off the Tanzanian coast confronted Calitz, Pelizzari, and skipper Peter Eldridge in October 2010, while they were sailing from Dar es Salaam to spend Christmas with friends and family in South Africa. Eldridge refused to leave the yacht and escaped, but the pirates forced Pelizzari and Calitz off the vessel. Read more.

A routine transit across the Indian Ocean for MV Asphalt Venture on September 20, 2010 ended in the hijacking and kidnapping of the vessel's 15 crewmembers by Somali pirates.  Among the hostages was Litton Daniston Anthony, an Indian national who served as a seafarer aboard the Panama-flagged vessel. In the 17 months since the hijack, his family has spent every spare moment working on securing his release.
On April 28, 2011, seven months after the hijacking, the pirate gang accepted a $3.5 million ransom to release the vessel and crew, however seven of the 15 crewmembers were held back and transferred to land. Anthony was one of the unlucky ones. Pirates toldSomalia Report that these remaining crewmembers would be held until the Indian government releases all Somali pirates being held in custody.
The development marked a major shift in pirate tactics, as previously vessels and crew had been released together upon receipt of ransom. According to an Indian government source, the pirate gang subsequently identified approximately 8-10 of the 150 pirates currently being held in Indian prisons as priorities for release.
In October 2011, pirates released a video showing all seven Indian crew still alive and being held on land, but only two months later pirates said that between October and December, two of the hostages had died while in custody in Harardheere.
In December last year, one of the pirates holding the hostages told Somalia Report, "The second hostage was in serious condition over the last month and he died this week. Now we are holding only five Indian hostages from the crew of MV Asphalt Venture. Two months earlier, another hostage died."
Neither Somalia Report nor the Indian government have been able to confirm whether there is any truth to the pirate claims. Indeed, such statements should not be taken at face value, as pirates frequently report ill health or death on the part of the hostages in order to put pressure on vessel owners and governments, and to speed up negotiations.
Desperate for help, Anthony's family enlisted the support of Seafarer's Trust and Charitable Trust, which has been working diligently to secure the release of the remaining Indian hostages. Seafarer's Trust has, in turn, contacted Somalia Report to help publicize the plight of the remaining hostages. Read more.
Image - Somalia Report

And Finally...

Nato navies operating off the coast of Somalia have warned of a recent increase in maritime piracy. I decided to experience first-hand what seafarers go through, reports BBC's Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner - BBC News.
I joined them not on a warship - which pirates avoid - but on a merchant tanker, the 112,000-tonne MT Sea Legend, carrying 90,000 tonnes of gas oil from the Gulf of Oman, through the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia, past the Bab al-Mandab Strait and up the Red Sea to Suez.
It is a 2,628-mile, 8-day voyage that sailors call "the route of fear".
Several ships have been approached and attacked in the past few days. More than 100 sailors are still being held to ransom on the Somali coast.
Yet close to 20,000 ships sail through the critical choke point at the bottom of the Red Sea every year, carrying vital trade.
The ship I joined is one of an increasing number using armed security teams onboard, this one provided by the Dorset-based company Neptune Maritime Security.
Within 24 hours of leaving port in Oman they have set up a sentry roster, ordered extra coils of razor wire to be strung out along the deck, and test-fired their high-powered rifles from the balconies next to the bridge. Read more.
Shipping companies may have found a new tool to fight piracy: It turns out, pirates like to tweet - CNN.
Not only that, Somali-based pirates blog and are on Facebook, security experts say. And it is through social media that shipping companies are increasing their understanding of how they operate.
"Somalia is a very sophisticated economy, it has one of the best mobile phone communication systems in the world," said Jessica Lincoln, director of intelligence at Rubicon Resolution, a risk consultancy.
Lincoln follows pirates' activities using what she describes as "normal" web tools. She gathers whatever individuals and organizations like al-Qaeda's Somali affiliate Al-Shabaab post online about attacks. The insurgent organization runs a Twitter account where it publicizes its activities. The Al-Shabaab Twitter account has been a part of the debate over whether terrorist organizations should be allowed to use Twitter.
Twitter does not take responsibility for the accuracy and appropriateness of user content in its terms of service.
Another source for her is the Kenyan army, which Lincoln describes as fully engaged in online exchanges with Al-Shabaab. Read more (includes video).
[OL - considered not exactly groundbreaking news. Al Shabaab have used Twitter in a words of words against the Kenya operations in Somalia. It is no more than most users of Twitter are aware. Individual pirates tweeting their account of a piracy incident has yet to occur].


Piracy Incidents


  • Arabian Sea -  Indian dhow Ramban with 15 Indian crew was reported hijacked in position 13:12N - 054:51E, NE of Socotra Island, at approx 0500 10 Mar. UPDATE: Vessel was stated as safe at her home port of Porbandar, India. The ship owner confirmed that the ship was not hijacked. The Regulating Directorate General of Shipping office in India, have suggested that a vessel sharing the name Rambanwas hijacked by pirates. Sources have indicated that the dhow has been freed by coalition forces and is safe off the Omani coast.

Unsuccessful Attacks (All regions):

  • South China Sea - LATE report - Whilst a Malaysia tug boat, Kimitrans Laut, was towing a barge Toll 3310 from Singapore to Pasir Gudang (Malaysia) at 1250 LT in position 01:14.23N - 104:02.59E, eight small boats came alongside the barge. An unknown number of robbers boarded the barge and escaped with some scrap iron. A few boats continued to be in the vicinity of the tug boat. The crew on the tug boat maintained good anti-piracy watch and continued her voyage to Pasir Gudang. No crew injuries occurred. POCC Singapore and MSTF Malaysia informed. Reported 29 Feb.
  • Red Sea - One skiff approached and chased an Iranian oil tanker, Hatef, underway at 0800 UTC: in position 12:32.5N – 043:26.8E. The Master raised the alarm, activated anti-piracy measures and contacted an Iranian warship for assistance. Seeing the warship, the pirates aborted the attempted attack. Initial report (via IMB) 10 Mar.
  • Arabian Sea - Five pirates in a skiff doing 22 knots chased and fired upon a Denmark-flagged container ship, Estelle Maersk, underway at 21 knots at 0715 UTC in position 13:09N - 057:56E, approximately 210nm ENE of Socotra Island. The pirates closed to the port quarter of the vessel and fired a RPG towards the bridge. The Master increased the speed, enforced anti-piracy measures and crew mustered in safe area. After chasing for about 20 minutes, the pirates aborted the attack and moved away. Initial report (via IMB) 11 Mar.
  • South China Sea - Two robbers in a fishing boat boarded an anchored Singapore bulk carrier, Ocean Amazing, during heavy rain at 0130 LT: in position 06:01S - 106:53E, Tanjung Priok Outer Anchorage, Indonesia. They entered the engine store room. The duty oiler, on routine rounds, spotted the robbers and raised the alarm. Upon hearing the alarm, the robbers escaped with the stolen ship property. Port control informed. Initial report (via IMB) 11 Mar.
  • West Africa - Ten robbers in two boats boarded an anchored Philippines-flagged Refrigerated Cargo Ship, Season Trader, at 0110 UTC: in position 05:51.95S - 013:03.11E, Boma Anchorage, Dem. Rep. Congo. They took duty A/B as hostage and attempted to enter the forward cargo hold by breaking the entrance hatch seal. Robbers escaped after 30 minutes with ship cargo and stores. The hostage A/B was slightly injured after being kicked in the back. Port control called but no reply received. Reported (via IMB) 14 Mar.

EUNAVFOR figures state 8 vessels and an estimated 213 hostages held captive (Updated 6 Mar). Somalia Report indicates 289 hostages held from 21 captured vessels with a further 26 land based hostages, bringing to a total of 315 hostages. UKMTO states 12 vessels and 233 hostages held.

Vessels are reminded that the coalition forces' warships may not be in the vicinity of a pirate attack, subsequently, it is emphasised that seafarers can greatly reduce their chances of being pirated if they follow precautions as recommended in the Best Management Practices, increasing speed and carrying out evasive manoeuvres is a proven deterrent to piracy attacks. BMP version 4 is available at the link above; a high resolution version can be downloaded here.

Vessels are advised to exercise extreme caution when navigating in the vicinity of any reported positions of attacks and maintain maximum CPA with any ship acting suspiciously. Additionally, registration of vessel movement with MSC(HOA) prior to transiting the region is recommended.

Situational Map

Horn of Africa Pirate Activity (Click on Map for Larger View)

OCEANUSLive.org permits the reproduction of this image providing source and link are published (Map ToU)
Any suspicious activity should be reported to UKMTO in Dubai in the first instance (Email UKMTO or Telephone+971 50 552 3215) and on entering the UKMTO Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) bound by Suez, 78E and 10S.

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