Monday, November 9, 2009

Pirates Escalate Raids on Indian Ocean Shipping

Furthest Ever Raid and Seizure of Weapons Ship Indicate Worse to Come
Shipping News Feature

INDIAN OCEAN – Recent developments in the behaviour of Somali pirates who prey upon shipping in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean has made the prospects for ocean freight that moves within the region even more hazardous.

On Monday the Hong Kong-flagged oil tanker, the BW Lion, was attacked almost 1,000 miles east of the Somali coast. The vessel was assaulted by two skiffs that fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) at it, but the captain was able to evade by increasing speed and conducting evasive manoeuvres.

Though attacks have been launched at increasing distances for the last year, this event is the furthest recorded attack by pirates and is a further indication that the pirates are increasingly able to avoid patrols by the multi-national naval task force in the area by staging further out in converted ‘mother-ships’.

In related news come reports that the pirates have also seized a vessel that is alleged to be carrying a quantity of illegal arms. Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme told Reuters that a UAE-flagged ship, which he asserts is using the fake name of Al Mizan, was hijacked on Sunday and is now being held near the northern Somali town of Garacad.

Mr. Mwangura asserts that the ship is heavily involved in supplying the pirates with the arms they use for their attacks in direct contravention of the UN arms embargo to the country. Though the reasons for the seizure remain open to conjecture, it certainly adds an extra dimension to what is already an immensely complicated situation.