Somali pirates get ransom, but more ships are fighting back

close up of a pile of gold dobloons

Somali pirates got their ransom for a London-based tanker Friday, but increasing naval power and more assertive shipping companies are putting a dent in pirate attacks. Flickr photo.

Somali pirates scored another pay day Friday when a bag of loot was parachuted onto the deck of a chemical tanker they seized last December. The amount of the pirate ransom was unknown. The successful extortion attempt by Somali pirates Friday follows last week’s rescue of a Russian tanker crew by Russian commandos that killed one Somali pirate and set 10 others adrift 300 miles offshore. Despite stepped-up international efforts to patrol the seas off Somalia, modern day pirates are an increasing threat to maritime security. The Telegraph reports that as many as 22 vessels from 11 different countries with up to 380 crew members are still held by pirates in Somalia.

Pirates flee with ransom

Somali pirates seized the St. James Park tanker on Dec. 28 as it passed through the Gulf of Aden on its way from Spain to Thailand. The vessel was anchored offshore from the pirate bastion of Garacaad while the pirate ransom was negotiated with Zodiac Maritime Agencies, the owner of the St. James Park. The Telegraph reports that the London-based firm said commenting on details of the pirate ransom could endanger the crew of another of its tankers, the Asian Glory, which was seized just four days after its sister ship was taken. The St. James Park steamed for the port of Oman on Friday. The gang of brigands fled with their pirate ransom.

Modern day pirate war

To battle modern day pirates, the United States, European Union, China, Russia and other nations have deployed naval forces to fend off attacks, which have threatened one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors. The Globe and Mail reports that Russian forces stormed a hijacked oil tanker in a rescue operation last week, killing one pirate. Russia said the 10 other pirates were stripped of their weapons and navigation equipment and set adrift aboard one of the skiffs they used in the attack. Russian media later quoted a military source saying the pirates were now likely dead. Somali pirates vow revenge.

Real pirates making millions

Today’s real pirates would make Jack Sparrow envious. The Globe and Mail reports that real pirates have made tens of millions of dollars seizing ships for ransom in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. With foreign navies patrolling the busy shipping lanes around Somalia, pirates are venturing out to other areas. According to the International Maritime Bureau, Somali pirates accounted for more than half the reported piracy incidents worldwide in 2009 and nearly all of the hijackings. Between August 2008 and December 2009, 706 pirates were captured, but nearly 60 percent were released.

Meeting a pirate’s fate

The tide may be starting to turn for Somali pirates. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the USS Nicholas, a guided missile frigate, was sailing west of the Seychelles islands April 1 in the Indian Ocean when it began taking small-arms fire from a pirate skiff. The frigate fired back, pursued the skiff and arrested three pirates. The Nicholas then captured the pirates’ mother ship nearby and arrested two more.

Fighting fire with fire

On March 23, private security guards hired by the Panamanian-flagged commercial ship MV Almezaan shot back at pirates, killing one. The Christian Science Monitor said it could be  described as the beginning of a trend in which shipping companies are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore. When the Maersk Alabama, an American-flagged ship famously attacked a year ago, was attacked again in November, a four-man security team aboard the ship fired back and thwarted the attack.

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