Pirates in Somalia

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Date Submitted: 09/28/2011 08:37 AM

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he International Maritime Bureau (IMB) considers the Somali coast to be the most dangerous stretch of water in the world. At any given time pirates are holding at least a dozen ships hostage including the occasional oil supertanker for which they can demand up to $25 million in ransom. A typical piracy attempt reads like this:

11.04.2009: 1240 UTC: Posn: 00:18.2N - 051:44.3E, About 285 nm east of Mogadishu, Somalia.

Eight pirates armed with guns and RPG in two skiffs, launched by a pirate mother vessel, attacked a container ship underway. Master increased speed to 22.8 knots and the skiffs followed at 23.5 knots. They approach very close and fired upon the ship. Master made evasive manoeuvers and prevented the boarding.

These live piracy reports come in several times a day.

Where do Somali Pirates Operate?

Somalia has a huge coastline (see map), wrapped around the Horn of Africa. In 2008 many pirate attacks were launched in the narrow channel known as the The Gulf of Aden. In response to these attacks and the economic effect they were having on this popular shipping channel, a fleet of international warships are now on daily patrol. Pirates are now known to be using "mother ships" so they can launch attacks further out at sea. Have a look at this international piracy map for a graphic overview of all the latest piracy attempts.

Who are These Pirates?

Somali pirates don't wear eye patches, and instead of swords they have RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). They use small, fast speedboats to get around and work in crews of 10 or so. Once they find a good target, they launch hooks and rope ladders up to board the ship and overwhelm the crew. They often attack at night.

In 2008, 40 ships were successfully captured and ransoms were paid ranging from $500,000 to $2 million. In 2010, 49 ships were hijacked off the coast of Somalia (out of a total of 53 worldwide). Quite the incentive for poor fishermen living in a war torn African country. Successful...