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Latest on Somalian Piracy!

Interesting Article: "Armed ships guards foil attempted Somali pirate hijack" by The Foreigner / Bay of Aden published Monday, March 19th, 2012

An interesting article mentioned that According to Norwegian company Seatrans AS, which is managing the ship, armed security guards on board the ship managed to avert Friday’s attack in a retaliatory action. The Singapore-registered 20 000 ton chemical tanker ‘Trans Catalonia’ is currently on a voyage from Indonesia to Russia loaded with palm oil. In addition to the guards, the 20 crew are from Sweden, Poland and Romania. So what is the latest on Somalian piracy?

Shipping companies may have found a new tool to fight piracy: It turns out, pirates like to tweet. 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.

Lincoln has put together data from social media, mainstream media, academics, governmental organizations, and NGOs to create a virtual representation of the social networking web of pirates in Somalia. Her work -- aggregated from online sources -- has drawn the interest of shippers and government intelligence agencies.

But the same weakness Lincoln exploits can favor criminals. Shipping companies, like all listed enterprises, are required to disclose information like vessel sizes, their expenses in armed escorts and usual routes. "[Pirates] are being more understanding of the shipping industry, because of the World Wide Web and the money they've got through ransom payments, they bought themselves the laptops, they've got their iPhones and their iPads," said Lane Aldred, director of maritime and security services at Control Risks.

In 2011, the total cost of piracy was $7 billion, according to a report by Oceans Beyond Piracy, an NGO. Aldred considers this estimate conservative. Meanwhile, the same report said that ransoms were 2% of these total costs. Re-routing ships is piracy's biggest cost, estimated at $2.4 billion a year, or about a third of the total. Other growing piracy costs for shippers are insurance premiums and security equipment.

On Sunday, there were reports that piracy off the coast of Somalia has dropped by 40 per cent must have been welcome news to the business and tourism sectors in the region. According to security officials, exclusive economic zones off the Kenyan coast were now secure from attacks by Al-Shabaab militants. They attributed the drop in attacks to the deployment of troops to war-raved Somalia.

Though international forces have been patrolling the Indian Ocean, the pirates had continued with their attacks and did not show any signs of stopping. It was not until the Kenyan troops invaded Somalia last October that the attacks started reducing.

The onus is now on the Kenya Defence Forces to ensure that the vigilance and security is intensified.

According to the government, any vessels entering or leaving Kenya’s territory must be inspected or be sunk.

On the other end, Somali piracy lull has been linked to harsh sea winds as well. Somali pirates have been unable to step into the sea to prey on merchant shipping lines in the Gulf of Aden due to the harsh conditions at sea, leading to a drop in the frequency of attacks, naval sources have revealed. In readiness for an upsurge in the number of attacks, the European Union (EU) Naval Taskforce (EUNAVFOR) deployed in the region at the peak of the pirate attacks, is planning to double the number of warships by May to deal with the extra-threat.

The EUNAVFOR, which has been battling piracy since its creation in 2008, recently had its term extended to 2014 to continue its battle against the pirates. European navies, each appointed to lead the big battle off the Somali coastline for a specified period of at least six months at their taxpayers' expense, currently have five warships, including the Spanish vessel, SPS PATINO, a logistical vessel.

Fighting the Somali pirates over the short period of SPS Patino’s deployment has so far cost the Spanish taxpayer US$100 million, said its ambassador to Kenya, Javier Herrera, who spoke on board the ship before it set sail from Mombasa on Friday.

A French frigate is expected to replace SPS Patino in April. The 70-room Spanish vessel, with 125 staff on board from eight countries, has so far arrested six pirates, which it handed over to Spanish marines to face trial for an attempted hijacking. Pirates who mistook the warship for a civilian vessel were arrested after the ship deployed its helicopters to fight off the attack in Mogadishu.

Loedwijk Briet, Head of EU Delegation to Kenya, said the support for the taskforce work was part of efforts to deal with the piracy crisis off the Gulf of Eden. The root of the problem is on land. There are a few states willing to prosecute suspected pirates,” Briet said.

Responding to criticism that the EU was spending millions of dollars in support for a military operation instead of freeing those resources to train a Somali coast-guard, Briet said the fight was being undertaken from various sectors. “There is sharing of information on piracy issues. We are training the Somali coastguard on boarding, searching and protecting merchant ship. We have to eradicate the problem from the root,” Briet said.

The Somali pirates did not have a good year in 2011, statistically speaking at least. According to Nato, they only managed four successful attacks off the coast of the country, and only one in the Gulf of Aden, just further north.

They had more luck in the more distant waters of the Arabian sea, where they captured 19 ships, and attempted to take almost 50 others. And therein lies the worry for all the nations that have supported efforts to rein in criminals who have demanded – and received – millions of dollars in ransoms for the ships and crews they have hijacked. There is a whiff of desperation about the pirates at the moment. They are travelling further afield and taking more risks, after finding the tactics that worked in the past are bearing less fruit, particularly now merchant ships can carry armed security teams that fight machine-gun fire with machine-gun fire. But nobody expects the pirates to go away, or to give up. "Earning $10,000 for a Somali is like winning the lottery," said one western official. "The question is, what are they going to do next? How are they going to adapt?"

There are signs they are already rethinking. Tighter security at sea may have driven some pirates to include kidnappings for ransom on land. In January, US Navy Seals swooped on Somalia's Galmudug region to rescue two kidnapped aid workers. Nine of the pirates were killed.

Most of the costs to the shipping industry derived from pre-emptive efforts to protect ships. Ship-owners paid an extra $2.7bn for fuel to speed through high-risk areas last year. Another $1.1bn was spent on security equipment and armed guards, with $635m going on insurance and between $486m and $680m on rerouting ships along the western Indian coast. Somali piracy still cost the world economy between $6.6bn and $6.9bn last year.

The UK government has poured money into the legal and prison system of the Seychelles, where many pirates are taken after capture. Two lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service are based there. But prison capacity in the Seychelles is very small, and what happens when it cannot take any more?

A conference in London last month conjured some solutions. A leaked draft of the final communiqué from the conference, which was published on Somali websites, says the participants welcomed arrangements made by some members to capture pirates at sea, transfer them to the Seychelles and Mauritius for trial and then, if convicted, transfer them to prisons in the breakaway Somaliland region and in the semi-autonomous Puntland enclave.



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