Somalia/Gulf of Aden/Indian Ocean:
Since the last update on November 20, NATO Reports there have been four attacks and at least seven other apparently pirate related incidents of suspicious behavior or approach, but no successful pirate seizures in the Indian Ocean.
“Since the start of the EU NAVFOR counter-piracy mission in December 2008, a total of 2317 merchant seamen have been held hostage for an average of nearly 5 months. The longest period in captivity is 19 months for the 24 crew members of the M/V ICEBERG 1, who are still being held.
“It is estimated that at least 60 merchant seamen have died as a result of their captivity in the hands of the pirates and many more have suffered torture and abuse. 49 of the 200 hostages are held without the collateral of a ship, following the ship sinking or being abandoned which means that their future is less clear as their value is seen as less than that of a ship. Additionally, a recent tactic of the criminal gangs has been to agree to the ransom payment for the return of ship and crew and then hold-back some of the crew when the ship is released to use to negotiate for the release of convicted Somali pirates from the home country of the detained crew members. Currently 4 South Korean and 7 Indian crew members from the M/V GEMINI and the ASPHALT VENTURE are held following the release of the ships.”
The Seychelles, whose economy has been damaged by the threat of piracy, has offered China their territory as a base from which to patrol against the pirates. (Don’t expect this to become a full fledged naval base, just somewhere to refuel.) There is already a small US drone operation on the islands.
European union reports they face a warship shortage for the Somali piracy mission, at least partly due to operations off Libya.
The British are using dogs to determine if suspected pirates have residual evidence of explosives as an aid to prosecution.
In something of a first, the flagship of the European Naval Force, Spanish oiler/replenishment ship SPS Patino (A-14), has escorted three humanitarian aid ships into Somalia. The operation is noteworthy for two reasons. First shipments are normally made using only one ship, but the situation has become so dire that multiple ships are now required, and second because the escort ship was not a “warship” rather it was an underway replenishment ship. The use of auxiliaries to counter pirates seems to be a mini-trend. The Patino, 17,045 tons full load, has an adequate speed at 21 knots, space for up to three helicopters, long endurance, and even its minimal armament is enough to deal with pirates. She even refueled a NATO warship, in passing, while conducting the escort.
Nigeria/Gulf of Guinea
There are encouraging signs the countries of the region are learning to cooperate in their counter-piracy efforts. (More here). NNS Thunder (the former USCGC Chase) should be arriving soon having departed Alameda a month ago.
Meanwhile the House Committee on Homeland Security’s subcommittee on Counter Terrorism and Intelligence has found that there is an emerging Islamic fundamentalist group in Nigeria that threatens the US.
Some information on the hijacking of a small ferry that took place in Turkey on 11 November.
Armed Security Guards:
Somewhat surprisingly the Greek seafaring unions have rejected the idea of having armed security teams on board as suggested by the Greek Coast Guard. This sounds more like bruised egos than a decision based on unbiased analysis.
India, on the other hand, has joined the growing number of countries that allow or encourage the use of armed security guards.