SHIPPING | Pirate ship seizures set to fall in 2010

David Osler | LLOYD’S LIST

FAR fewer Somali pirate attacks will succeed in capturing vessels in 2010 than was the case even a few years ago, the secretary-general of the United Nations has argued in a report to the UN Security Council.

According to Ban Ki-moon, the success rate for seizures as a proportion of attacks will fall below 20% this year, dramatically down on the 63% recorded in 2007.

“The decrease in success is attributable to the additional defensive measures put in place by merchant ships, their more cautious navigational routes, and effective naval operations,” Mr Ban said.

Current industry standard advise to vessels is to improve their vigilance and, if approached, to use evasive manoeuvres and to turn fire hoses on attackers.

Warships from more than 30 navies are on anti-piracy duty in the Gulf of Aden, and further grey hulls from Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar, the Seychelles and Reunion may soon augment the deployment, according to diplomatic sources.

Indian Ocean nations are anxious to participate in the effort on account of the threat posed by piracy to their economies. Insurers are charging higher rates for commercial ships that transport goods, which inevitably finds a reflection in the price of the commodities carried.

Mr Ban said in his report that there were 30 attacks by pirates in the region during the first three months of 2010. He also said their methods have become “increasingly sophisticated”.

Tactics now include the use of motherships to tow smaller vessels out to sea, global positioning satellite equipment, and heavier weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, he went on.

The 30 attacks in the first quarter of 2010 projects to a year total of 120, compared to 217 in 2009.

Mr Ban, at the request of the Security Council, also outlined seven options for prosecuting pirates. He suggested enhancing the capacity of the high-security courtroom opened in Kenya last month, and six proposals for establishing regional or international courts, without indicating a personal preference.

Meanwhile, 11 Somali nationals accused of mounting separate attacks on two US Navy ships are scheduled to appear in a federal court in Virginia today for arraignments on piracy and other charges.

Six are said to have participated in the April 10 attack on the USS Ashland. Five are charged in connection with an April 1 attack on the USS Nicholas.

The piracy charge carries a mandatory life term. All entered not guilty pleas at their previous arraignment.

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