Monday, May 4, 2009

Another busy weekend for Somali pirates

There were a number of incidents in the seas off East Africa the past few days, including the hijacking of a European-owned bulk carrier and a UAE-owned cargo ship, both on Saturday. (There is some confusion about the bulker ownership, with sources like the BBC reporting it to be British-owned, while AFP says it is Greek-owned with a British shipping agent. Fairplay reports today that it is British. The crew are all Ukranian and the vessel was seized some 250 n.m. southwest of the Seychelles.)

On Sunday, French naval forces captured 11 suspected pirates in waters about halfway between Kenya and the Seychelles, seizing a 10-metre long vessel - probably a mother ship - and two smaller skiffs. According to Fairplay, "further treatment of the suspects is yet to be decided."

Finally, a South Korean warship came to the aid of a North Korean freighter that was being stalked by pirates in the gulf of Aden. The Times Online says that snipers in a South Korean naval helicopter helped scare off the attackers, a remarkably rare event when you consider that the two Koreas are still technically at war with one another. (This brings to mind an incident back in November of 2007, when a US Navy destroyer responded to a distress call from another North Korean vessel that had been boarded by pirates.)

It's interesting to note the activity in the waters around the Seychelles, an area of sea that is not a prone to the summer monsoon winds that plague the northern part of the region. Might Somali pirates be thinking of shifting more of their operations into this part of the Indian Ocean in the coming months, to avoid any weather-influenced disruptions?

Meanwhile, the naval elements currently patrolling the western side of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden look to be extending and augmenting their missions. Canada has announced that HMCS Winnipeg will be staying in the region until early June as part of the frigate's commitment to Standing NATO Maritime Group One. And a Greek frigate has arrived to join with the European Union Naval Force ATALANTA. That force now comprises 8 frigates, a patrol boat and two support vessels from spain, Germany, France, Italy and Greece.

Photos below are of HMCS Winnipeg and are from the DND Combat Camera team. Take a look at the last one, in particular. It gives you an excellent view of a pirate skiff and their boarding gear.

HMCS Winnipeg in the Indian Ocean
(photo: Warrant Officer Carole Morissette, Canadian Forces Combat Camera

Canadians rarely forget the hockey playoffs, even when patrolling the Gulf of Aden
(photo: Warrant Officer Carole Morissette, CF Combat Camera)

Pirate skiff, Gulf of Aden, April 18, 2009
(photo: MCorporal David Tillotson, Air Detachment HMCS Winnipeg, CF Combat Camera)

No comments: