Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A quiet week

It's been a quiet week in terms of reported pirate attacks around the globe, though this should not be taken as a sign of any goodwill being shown by maritime criminals towards mariners. The International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre lists only four incidents on their website for the period 23-29 December 2008:
  • Off Johor, Malaysia, on December 26 six armed robbers boarded an offshore support vessel at 0340 Local time and stole ship’s stores and properties. Authorities informed who later boarded for investigation.
  • Mid-stream Saigon River, Vietnam, on December 25, an AB stationed on forecastle deck heard some noises at 0030 LT and he immediately conducted a search. Two robbers were seen escaping. Upon investigation store padlocks were found broken. Nothing stolen.
  • In the Gulf of Aden (14:13.7N, 050:51.5E) on December 25, at 1614 UTC, a bulk carrier underway was chased and fired upon by a pirate boat. The vessel sent a distress message which was relayed by a passing ship to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre for assistance. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre immediately contacted the authorities for assistance. A warship and a helicopter was sent to assist the crew and the vessel. Seeing the naval helicopter approaching the pirate boat aborted and moved away. One crew member onboard the bulk carrier was injured on his leg from a bullet fired by the pirates. The injured crew was airlifted to a warship for medical treatment. Rest of the crew safe. Vessel proceeding to destination port
  • And at 0340 LT on December 22 in the Chittagong anchorage (Bangladesh), a duty oiler onboard a tanker spotted armed robbers near the engine store area. The alarm was raised, crew alerted and authorities contacted. Robbers escaped with stolen engine spares.
This makes for one of the calmest periods in quite some time, but the reality is that it may just be a period in which pirate gangs are regrouping, rearming and relaxing before the New Year calls them back to work. Or, in the case of Somali pirates, they are busy negotiating ransom demands for the various vessels and crews currently being held hostage in that part of the world.

Yesterday, Kenyan piracy expert Andrew Mwangura told me that he's received information about the current fate of two of these vessels, Turkish ships seized at the end of October and beginning of November:

"Talks for the release of two Turkish ships - MV Neslihan and MT Karagöl - taken hostage in the Gulf of Aden has concluded and now debates continue on how the ransom will be delivered. If an agreement is reached, the 34 crew members of the ill-fated vessels will be set free in January next year. All 34 crew men are said to be in good health and high spirit."

(A Turkish news outlet, Today's Zaman, reports that a lawyer for one of the vessels's owners, that of the Karagöl, confirmed negotiations with the pirates are wrapping up.)

Mwangura went on to detail what he's heard about the means by which the ransom will be delivered, saying, "It has been made known that the two ships have been brought to the Eyl port and ransom bargaining has come to an end, while now delivery methods are being deliberated. There are two methods which have been approved by the pirates. The gunmen are demanding the money be dropped by air from a helicopter or plane in a balloon that will not sink, or for the ransom to be delivered by ship. At the moment the delivery from the air is the most probable method to be used."

This is the way it really does happen.

1 comment:

Ken E Beck said...

It seems that there is a difference in ferocity between the attacks on the Zhenhua 4 and the Biscaglia. The Zhenhua pirates had no shoes and lacked fuel. The attack on the Biscaglia was much more intense.
I wonder if that is because the pirates are similar to a franchise. We know about the infrastructure ashore, do you think the shore side establishment would supply a group with weapons, maybe some training and a boat and fuel if they asked? If that is the case it will be very difficult to end because the shoreside establishment is not taking any risks and the pirates at sea are playing the lottery, with their lives, but with a big payoff.