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East Africa Piracy

Somali piracy escalates on Eastern African coast

Apolinari Tairo, eTN Staff Writer  Apr 10, 2009

Somali piracy on the Eastern African coast pose a threat to international shipping companies, a situation likely to disrupt maritime services on the Indian Ocean eastern and southern ports.

Maritime sources from Tanzania’s Indian Ocean ports have expressed deep concern over the alarming Somali piracy, which had brought six ships into the hands of the war-torn Somali pirates.

Tanzanian and South African navy ships are said to patrol the international waters off-the Eastern African coast, but the pirates are said to have targeting ships crossing near Somalia, where security is lacking.
Last Wednesday, an American-operated ship with a crew of 20 United States nationals and carrying 400 containers of food aid was attacked and hijacked by the pirates.

The ship owned by Danish shipping company - Maersk and operated by Maersk Alabama, a 17,525-tonne container vessel, was attacked about 500 kilometers off the Somali coast en route to Mombasa in Kenya early Wednesday.

The ship's home port was Norfolk, Virginia, and it was owned and operated by Maersk Line, Limited in the United States. This incident brings to six the number of ships hijacked by the Somali pirates in a seven-day period.

On April 6, armed pirates chased and boarded a fishing trawler about 630 nautical miles south-east of Mogadishu, Somalia, and used the trawler in other hijack attempts. On the same day pirates seized a bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden.

Also on the same day, a bulk carrier detected on radar speed boats approaching from about 12 nautical miles. As the boats reached the carrier, "all crew mustered, activated fire hoses, switched on all lights, sent distress signal, made evasive maneuvers and succeeded in preventing the boarding, maritime reports said.

Last Saturday, the Somali pirates have hijacked a German container vessel in an attack in the Indian Ocean.

Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the Kenya -based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Program, said the said pirates seized the ship on Saturday about 400 nautical miles from the southern Somali port of Kismayu, between Kenya and the Seychelles.

"We believe the German ship has 24 crew on board. We're trying to establish their identities and the name of the vessel," Mwangura said early this week.

More than 20 ships from the European Union (EU), NATO, China and Russia are patrolling the Indian Ocean coast -off Somalia and around the Horn of Africa.

Dozens of ships seized by pirates have been released after owners paid tens of millions of dollars in ransom.

Pirates typically hold the ships and crews until large ransoms are paid by the shipping companies - last year the firms handed over US dollars 100 million.

More than 130 pirates attacks, including close to 50 successful hijackings, were reported in 2008, threatening one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The pirates spend the large ransoms of money to buy modern and sophisticated weapons used to fights inside Somalia and other weapons, mainly assault guns are sold to criminals in the Great Lakes region.

Somali piracy escalates on Eastern African coast
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