There was a sinister development in January among the tactics being used by Somali pirates when they have hijacked a ship.
On Jan 12, Somali pirates boarded a general cargo ship some 270 miles north east of Socotra Island in the Arabian Sea near the Gulf of Aden.
The attack was launched from a previously-captured fishing vessel that was being used as a mother ship. Six crew members, two Danes and four Filipinos, were removed from the cargo ship and transferred to the hijacked fishing vessel.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) director Captain Pottengal Mukundan said: “Whilst the use of hijacked vessels as mother ships is not a new phenomenon, the abduction of crew members could signal a significant new development.”
Hijacked ships have previously been used by the pirates, enabling a greater range and capability so they can operate further into the Indian Ocean and with no interference from naval forces. At least five large hijacked cargo ships and three fishing vessels have acted as mother ships in the last couple of months, posing a new and significant threat to the safety of shipping.
The number of incidents in the Gulf of Aden more than halved last year, with 53 attacks in 2010, down from 117 in 2009. The IMB attributes this reduction to the deterrence work of naval forces from around the world that have been patrolling the area since 2008 and to ships’ application of selfprotection measures recommended in Best Management Practices, a booklet published last year by the shipping industry and navies.
More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - March 2011 Issue
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