The first quarter of 2011 saw record numbers of pirate attacks, 142 of which 97 of the attacks (70%) occurred off the coast of Somalia, up from 35 in the same period last year. Attackers seized 18 vessels worldwide, including three big tankers, and captured 344 crew members. Pirates murdered seven crew members and injured 34 during the quarter.
But there have been some potentially important developments.
For the first time The FBI has indicted one of the men behind the pirates after capturing him in Somalia. “Mohammad Saaili Shibin, a/k/a “Khalif Ahmed Shibin,” a/k/a “Shibin,” of Somalia, was indicted on March 8, 2011, by a federal grand jury in Norfolk, Va., in association with the alleged pirating of an American yacht, the S/V Quest, and taking hostage four U.S. citizens, who were ultimately killed before their release could be secured. The indictment remained sealed until Shibin made a court appearance on April 13, 2011. Fourteen co-conspirators were indicted the same day and are awaiting a jury trial currently scheduled to begin on Nov. 29, 2011.”
Where to imprison pirates has been problematic for most countries leading to a “catch and release” approach, but the UN is working with elements in Somalia to open three prisons for convicted pirates. One is open now and two more are planned, but the new prison will only accept pirates from Somaliland, the most stable of three regions in Somalia. The second prison is planned for Puntaland, location of the third has not been chosen. The UN Security Council is also looking for ways to set up Somali courts to try those accused of piracy.
Operationally there has also been some good news.
The Finnish Navy minelayer and command ship FNS Pohjanmaa, 1,450 tons (left), seized a Dhow that was being used as a pirate mother ship on April 6 and after an investigation, destroyed it on April 9. 18 suspected pirates were detained. Continue reading