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Old June 9th, 2005, 05:00 PM   #1
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Maritime Piracy

Piracy warning for Somali coast boosted after new incidents

NAIROBI, June 8 (AFP) - The International Maritime Board (IMB) has boosted its piracy warning for the coast of lawless Somalia after two recent violent attacks, including one this week in which a US naval destroyer intervened.

The board, a division of the International Chamber of Commerce, said the new attacks, the fourth and fifth off the Somali coast in three months, underscored the danger to mariners in the area and renewed a warning for transiting vessels to avoid the region.

"The eastern and northeastern coasts of Somalia continue to be high-risk areas for hijackings," it said in its weekly piracy report issued Tuesday.

"Ships not making scheduled calls to ports in these areas should stay away from the coast," it said, noting that all five incidents since March 31 had involved armed pirates who, in at least two cases, took crews hostage.

Both the IMB and the United States, which issues its own maritime threat assessments, warned of a surge in piracy in Somali waters in April after the first three attacks.

They have repeated those alerts regularly but not until this week had either mentioned new attacks.

The last reported attack took place on Monday in waters off the Somalia capital of Mogadishu in which three gunmen in a white speedboat opened fire on an unidentified bulk carrier with automatic weapons, the IMB said.

The USS Gonzalez, a US naval ship in the area, responded to the vessel's distress call, came close, fired flares and escorted the carrier further out to sea, it said.

There were "no injuries to crew but gunfire by pirates caused 10 bullet holes on the starboard side near the bridge," the IMB said in its brief description of the incident.

The second most recent and possibly more serious attack took place off Somalia's eastern coast on May 22 when pirates boarded and hijacked a cargo ship, beating up 21 crewmembers, locking them in a room and demanding a ransom for their release, it said.

"Further news is awaited" on that incident, the IMB said.

An earlier hostage crisis involving a ship hijacked in April was resolved last month, reportedly as a US naval ship observed.

In March, the United States advised western shipping firms of possible speedboat-launched terrorist attacks on vessels in the Indian Ocean off the coast of east Africa, including Somali waters.
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Old June 14th, 2005, 06:59 PM   #2
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Ships warned to steer well clear of Somali coast in new piracy alert

NAIROBI, June 14 (AFP) - The International Maritime Board (IMB) on Tuesday warned ships transiting Indian Ocean sea lanes off the coast of lawless Somalia to stay as far away as possible from shore due to a surge in piracy there.

In the latest in a series of increasingly dire alerts about threats to commercial shipping in waters off east and northeast Somali, the board said vessels not making calls in the region should stay at least 50 miles (85 kilometers) and preferably further away from the coast.

"Eastern and northeastern coasts of Somalia continue to be high-risk areas for hijackings," the Malaysia-based IMB said in its weekly piracy report issued Tuesday.

"Ships not making scheduled calls to ports in these areas should stay at least 50 miles or as far away as practical from the eastern coast of Somalia," it said, recommending for the first time a distance for captains to use.

The board, a division of the International Chamber of Commerce, said recent attacks, including one earlier this month in which a US naval destroyer intervened to save besieged vessel, underscored the danger to mariners there.

Earlier this year, both the IMB and the United States, which issues its own maritime threat assessments, warned of a surge in piracy in Somali waters after three attacks were reported after a quiet spell between March 31 and mid-April.

Those warnings have been renewed regularly but last week, after two new violent attacks -- one in late May and one in earlier June, the IMB boosted its alert.

All five incidents reported since March 31 have involved armed pirates who, in at least two cases, took crews hostage.

The last reported attack took place on June 7 off the Somalia capital of Mogadishu when three gunmen in a white speedboat opened fire with automatic weapons on an unidentified bulk carrier, according to the IMB.

The USS Gonzalez, a US naval ship in the area, responded to the vessel's distress call, came close, fired flares and escorted the carrier further out to sea, it said.

There were "no injuries to crew but gunfire by pirates caused 10 bullet holes on the starboard side near the bridge," the IMB said in a brief description of the incident.

In March, the United States advised western shipping firms of possible speedboat-launched terrorist attacks on vessels in the Indian Ocean off the coast of east Africa, including Somali waters.
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Old June 18th, 2005, 08:33 PM   #3
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Malaysian police say dramatic pirate attack an inside job, two arrested

KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 (AFP) - Malaysian police announced Thursday they have arrested two crewmen from a tanker which was hijacked by Indonesian pirates this week, saying they believed it was an inside job.

Ten pirates boarded the tanker loaded with diesel off Malaysia's Langkawi island on Tuesday but their planned attack was foiled when a quick-thinking sailor raced off in their speedboat, stranding them on the vessel.

He returned with five police patrol boats and after a tense standoff, the pirates aboard the Malaysian tanker were persuaded to surrender.

Kedah state police chief Mohamed Supian Amat told The Star newspaper that an Indonesian crew member and another unidentified officer were believed to have alerted the pirates to the ship, which was travelling from Singapore to Myanmar.

"We believe this is an inside job. This hijacking was well planned," he told the English-language daily.

Deputy police chief Musa Hassan said international syndicates could be involved in the hijacking of the tanker in the Malacca Strait.

Their involvement was suspected because they have to find a source to dispose of the diesel, he was quoted as saying by the Bernama news agency in Langkawi island where the pirates are being detained.

Musa also said divers have been deployed to search for weapons believed to have been thrown overboard when police raided the ship.

"There is a possibility that the pirates planned to hijack the ship for the cargo, taking into account high oil prices," said Noel Choong, head of the Piracy Reporting Centre of the London-based International Maritime Bureau.

Police must investigate who the attackers are, if they belong to the same group involved in kidnapping crews for ransom, when they started the scheme, and which syndicates if any are involved in the attack, he said.

Choong said a new syndicate may have emerged with a plan to hijack fuel cargos, noting that in the late 1990s there were many similar cases where pirates hijacked a ship to transfer the cargo to another tanker.

The Malacca Strait is one of the world's most important waterways, with 50,000 ships carrying about one-third of the globe's trade passing through it each year.

However the strait, 960 kilometres (600 miles) long and 1.2 kilometres wide at its narrowest point, is notoriously vulnerable to pirate attacks. Governments in the region also believe it is tempting for terrorists.
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Old June 18th, 2005, 08:37 PM   #4
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Pirates raid supertanker at Iraq's Basra
By Stefano Ambrogi

LONDON, June 16 (Reuters) - Armed pirates raided a supertanker anchored close to Iraq's Basra oil export terminal in the early hours of Wednesday, in the latest serious security breach at the facility.

Local ship agent Gulf Agency Company (GAC) said the raid comes only two weeks after pirates attacked the crew of a supertanker waiting to load crude oil at the southern deep water terminal where most of Iraq's crude oil is exported.

Exports from Basra provide nearly all of Iraq's income.

"The alert was sounded when watchmen found three men carrying long knives, a rifle and a machine gun on board the vessel. The pirates fled in a speed boat and no causalties have been reported," GAC said.

The agent said merchant ships should be extremely cautious in and around the deepwater terminals and anchorages. "In light of this latest incident, robust anti-piracy procedures should be adopted," it said.

Security worries have plagued Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in the spring of 2003.

Only this week U.S.-led coalition naval forces increased patrols in and around Iraq's Basra oil terminals after two high-profile security scares.

The U.S.'s Navy's Fifth Fleet, which helps co-ordinate maritime security in the Gulf, said security measures employed by the crew had foiled the attempted raid.

"This was a good example of a ship having sound internal security measures that thwarted an attempt...they had alert watches and that is what we encourage all mariners to do," the U.S. Navy's Lieutenant Commander Charlie Brown told Reuters from Bahrain.

But a maritime secuirty analyst, whose firm provides security in Iraq, said the incident was a serious breach.

"The moment they get aboard the vessel you've lost," the analyst who did not want to be identified told Reuters.

He said that if terrorists had got on board the outcome would have been far graver.

"Because they are gaining control and there intent is absolute: to destroy the vessel, do destroy a target."

Brown said there was nothing to indicate that the assailants were anything more than bandits. He said coalition forces took security very seriously and that their presence had increased overtly.

Last week, the navy told Reuters coalition forces were only directly responsible for security at the oil terminals and not at the approaches or anchorages.

SECURITY CONCERNS

Piracy watchdog, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), said the incident once again raised serious questions over security.

"It's pretty worrying because of everything that is happening in Iraq. We are monitoring the situation closely," Jayant Abhyankar, deputy director of the IMB, told Reuters.

On May 31, pirates armed with AK-47 assault rifles stormed the Nord Millennium with a capacity of 300,000 tonnes anchored near Basra terminal.

They assaulted the crew before making off with thousands of dollars in cash.

In late April, security was tightened after an armed gang raided a wheat-carrying ship anchored in the vicinity.

Security was stepped up last year at Basra oil terminal after al Qaeda's al-Zarqawi group carried out suicide boat attacks at the terminal.
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Old June 24th, 2005, 06:37 AM   #5
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Malaysian police arrest alleged mastermind of oil tanker hijack: report

KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 (AFP) - Malaysian police have arrested a man accused of being the mastermind behind the botched hijacking of an oil tanker in the piracy-prone Malacca Strait last week, reports said Wednesday.

The 42-year-old was arrested late Monday in the capital Kuala Lumpur, the official Bernama news agency said, without specifying his nationality.

Police said he was suspected of planning to sell the tanker's load of diesel to a buyer in a neighbouring country.

Ten Indonesian pirates boarded the Malaysian tanker off Langkawi island on June 14 but their planned attack was foiled when a quick-thinking sailor raced off in their speedboat, stranding them on the vessel.

He returned with five police patrol boats and after a tense standoff, the pirates were persuaded to surrender.

The Malacca Strait is one of the world's most important waterways, with 50,000 ships carrying about one-third of the globe's trade passing through it each year.

However the strait, 960 kilometres (600 miles) long and 1.2 kilometres wide at its narrowest point, is notoriously vulnerable to pirate attacks.

Governments in the region also believe it is tempting for terrorists.
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Old June 27th, 2005, 11:06 PM   #6
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Is the whole Strait of Malacca between peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra (Indonesia) international waters? I believe that 3 miles from a country's coastline is considered that country's territory, but when the distance between two countries is only 1.2 kilometers, how would one determine if and how much is international waters?
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Old June 29th, 2005, 04:36 AM   #7
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Indonesian pirates plead guilty to attack on Malaysian tanker

KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 (AFP) - Ten Indonesians on Tuesday admitted a pirate attack on a Malaysian-owned tanker when they appeared in court in Malaysia, Bernama news agency said.

It said the 10, mainly from the tsunami-hit province of Aceh and who were not represented by lawyers, admitted that they carried out the attack armed with machetes.

They are Lukman Daim, 34; Johan Arifin, 43; Ruatam Pangabean, 57; Ismail Ataleb, 24; Irfan Muluna Adam, 24; Junaidi Abdul Rahman, 28; Hashim Adam, 25; Mukalis M. Ali Omar, 28, Wisnu Probowo, 33 and Afizal Razali, 26.

They face up to 20 years in jail and caning when sentenced on July 10.

The tanker, which was carrying diesel from Malaysia's Port Klang to Myanmar, was boarded before dawn off the northern island of Langkawi in the Malacca Strait earlier this month.

The attack was foiled when a quick-thinking crewman from the tanker leapt into the robbers' boat and sped off in it to fetch the police.

The Malacca Strait is one of the world's most important waterways, with 50,000 ships carrying about one-third of world trade passing through it each year.

However the strait, 960 kilometres (600 miles) long and 1.2 kilometres wide at its narrowest point, is notoriously vulnerable to pirate attacks and governments in the region also believe it is tempting for terrorists.

In an effort to stem attacks, the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have launched co-ordinated patrols.
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Old June 30th, 2005, 03:36 PM   #8
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Shipping industry's response to piracy is all at sea
MALACCA STRAIT: Tim Johnston explains why the risk is seen by some shipowners to be worth taking, although insurance premiums may increase to reflect the dangers.
27 June 2005
Financial Times

The manner in which business copes with transporting goods through the piracy-ridden Malacca Strait, the narrow sea lane between Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, highlights the way executives assess the balance of risk.

Last year more than 63,500 ships passed through, and traffic is growing at more than 5 per cent a year. At its narrowest it is only 20 nautical miles across, making it easy to spot and chase down slow-moving cargo ships.

There is a universally recognised problem with piracy in the strait. According to the Piracy Reporting Centre, part of the International Maritime Bureau, there were 37 attacks on ships in the strait last year, making it one of the most dangerous stretches of water on earth. Thirty crew are known to have been killed and 30 others are missing.

Other attacks may have gone unreported by shipowners fearful of increasing insurance premiums.

Iskandar Sazlan of the Maritime Institute of Malaysia says the absolute number of attacks is low relative to overall traffic. "Our concern is the magnitude of the incidents is getting more serious," he says. As an example he says that in April, pirates boarded a Japanese tanker armed with rocket propelled grenades, the first time such heavy weapons had been used in an attack on shipping in the strait.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have co-ordinated patrols to reduce the attacks but efforts have been hampered by Indonesia, the weakest link in the chain.

Indonesia is grappling with huge domestic problems and pirate attacks on 0.008 per cent of ships passing through its waters are not high on the list of priorities. The navy is under-funded and has few ships to cover a huge shoreline with many small creeks and mangrove swamps ideally suited to hiding the small, powerful boats typically used by pirates.

Many of the bandits are believed to be based in Indonesia's restive northern province of Aceh. This belief was given extra weight by last December's earthquake and tsunami which killed 165,000 people in Aceh and destroyed much of the infrastructure, including many boats, and led to a two month cessation of pirate attacks.

The attacks resumed as soon as the numerous foreign naval ships, which had gathered to provide assistance, left the area.

There are persistent rumours that members of the Indonesian security forces are involved in some of the attacks. At least one analyst points out that there is an unusually heavy police and army presence in Aceh because of the insurgency: the analyst, who did not want to be named, believes pirates could not operate without the tacit approval, if not active involvement, of some of the security forces.

But the attacks have had relatively little effect on the flow of shipping. Security companies that offered to provide armed guards ships have had little interest.

That is partly because most attacks have been on small coastal trading ships, with the pirates emptying the ship's safe, perhaps ransoming some of the crew.

The larger ships have generally been left alone after safes have been emptied. Since the funds they carry - enough to cover port fees and some crew salaries - are not greater than the cost of employing armed security, most shipowners prefer to take the risk.

More controversial are fears of terrorism. Some security analysts say Islamic militants could turn a ship into a floating bomb, or make the strait impassable to shipping.

The US has offered assistance in patrolling the strait, but Indonesia and Malaysia, sensitive to questions of national sovereignty, have ruled out foreign assistance.

Experts say it would be extremely difficult to turn a ship, even one carrying a volatile cargo such as liquefied natural gas, into a bomb. "It takes time, which they won't have and a ship has a lot of safety systems that are designed to prevent this," says Gordon Milne of the ship classification society Lloyd's Register.

Mr Sazlan of the Maritime Institute of Malaysia thinks it is unlikely that either pirates or terrorists could stop traffic in the Malacca Strait. "This is not the Panama Canal or the Suez Canal, it's a big area so ships can divert from problem areas."

Probably the most dispassionate assessors of the risks posed by pirates or terrorists in the Malacca Strait are those who would have to pay out in the event of a disaster: the underwriters who insure the ships.

Neil Smith, marine manager at the Lloyd's Market Association, which represents underwriters at Lloyd's of London, says that they have not increased premiums for ships travelling through the strait but recognise that complacency is not an option.

"We are looking at options that would allow underwriters to be more clinical about the Malacca Strait because, although there have not been any major losses as yet, we would be silly to think we can go on for ever without something arising which would be a major incident," he says.
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Old July 7th, 2005, 02:57 AM   #9
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World Food Program Suspends Somalia Aid Shipments
5 July 2005

UNITED NATIONS (AP)--The World Food Program suspended relief shipments to Somalia after pirates seized a ship carrying aid for tsunami victims, a U.N. spokesman said Tuesday.

Somali gunmen boarded the ship on Monday and took the crew of 10 hostage. The ship was carrying about two months worth of food aid for the 28,000 tsunami victims in Somalia.

The World Food Program will review the suspension, imposed Monday, after the crew, ship and food aid are released, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. The agency currently has about two weeks worth of food stocks in the country, WFP said in a separate statement.

Piracy along the Somalia coast is common - several ships a month are attacked, if not actually hijacked, with valuables stolen and crews held for ransom. This is the first time the U.N. has reported a ship hijacked by Somali pirates.

World Food Program officials have contacted clan elders to negotiate the release of the ship and its cargo and crew.
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Old July 13th, 2005, 08:31 PM   #10
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Malaysian backlash at Malacca risk call
By Marcus Hand
13 July 2005
Lloyd's List

MALAYSIAN Transport Minister Chan Kong Choy has lashed out at the declaration of the Malacca Strait as a war risk zone, claiming that the shipping lane is one of the safest in the world.

“If we divide the number of vessels which use the Strait of Malacca every year with the number of piracy cases, the figure is less than 0.01%,” Mr Chan he said after opening the third annual Indian Ocean Research Group international conference.

He was responding to questions over the decision by the Lloyd’s and London insurance market Joint War Committee to declare the Malacca Strait a war risk area.

He noted that the highest number of piracy incidents in the Strait was 37 in 2000.

The number of attacks compares with 60,000 merchant vessel transits a year. Recent violent pirate attacks, including kidnap for ransom, prompted the strait to be declared high risk.

Mr Chan described the committee statement as “over-dramatic”, adding: “We have to be rational and put things in perspective.”

Violent pirate attacks on vessels in the Strait have increased concern that shipping in the region could also be vulnerable to the threat of maritime terrorism.

The views of the transport minister were echoed by a Malaysian navy official.

“In fact, if you look at statistics, the Strait of Malacca is one of the safest straits in the world,” Royal Malaysian Navy assistant chief of staff First Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman Badaruddin told the news agency Bernama.

“The incidences [of threats] are small [in number] and relatively the risk factor is very small.”

However, in apparent recognition that there is a real problem with piracy in the strait, the Indonesian navy has launched an operation to combat the scourge.

The operation named Gurita, Indonesian for Octopus, will involve 20 warships, seven patrol boats, four aircraft and two helicopters.

The operation will cover both the Malacca and Singapore straits.

Meanwhile, Malaysia says it has no plans to increase security in the strait following last week’s terror bombings in London.

Mr Chan said it was “business as usual” in the strait.

While the London bombings have resulted in increased security on public transport in a number of countries in the region, no increased threat is seen against the shipping industry.

“We will maintain the current maritime security level because there are no indicators to increase [security] in terms of the maritime context,” Adm Kamarulzaman Badaruddin said.
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Old July 15th, 2005, 12:11 AM   #11
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WFP threatens aid suspension to parts of Somalia over piracy

NAIROBI, July 13 (AFP) - The World Food Programme (WFP) threatened Wednesday to halt food distribution to two areas of Somalia of time unless a hijacked UN-chartered vessel carrying aid to Somali tsunami victims is released soon.

With the hijacking saga now more than two weeks old and no signs of a quick of a resolution, the agency said it was issuing the public warning in a bid to speed the release of the ship, its cargo and crew.

"We're trying to put some pressure to solve this crisis and we want it solved as soon as possible," Laura Melo, a WFP spokeswoman in Nairobi, told AFP.

"We want to put pressure on them and show the community that they must get more involved because this is affecting a very large number of people," she said, referring to WFP's earlier decision to halt food shipments into Somalia pending a resolution to the crisis which began in late June.

However, she said WFP had not set a deadline for implementing the threatened suspension and not decided on the length of any halt in food distribution.

A senior WFP official was quoted in some reports on Tuesday as saying food distribution to all of Somalia could be suspended for 10 years if the ship was not released by the Thursday.

"If this situation is not sorted out we will not provide food distribution in the two areas where the hijackers come from," Melo said. "There is a threat of suspending food distribution but not for any specific time period."

In the meantime, she said efforts to negotiate the release of the vessel, the 10-member crew and the 850 tonnes of of Japanese- and German-donated rice it was carrying without paying a ransom demanded by the pirates.

A week after the hijacking, on July 4, WFP suspended all food shipments to Somalia due to the "insecurity of Somali waters," a decision it said would be reviewed if and when the hijacked ship was released.

The ship hauling food for victims of last year's tsunami in Somalia's northeastern Puntland region was seized by hijackers in pirate-infested waters about 300 kilometers (185 miles) northeast of Mogadishu on June 27.

The hijackers have several times demanded a 500,000-dollar (415,000-euro) ransom for their release but both the WFP and the owners of the the St Vincent and the Grenadines-registered MV Semlow have thus far refused.

The incident took place in waters deemed highly unsafe by marine safety authorities where both the International Maritime Board (IMB) and the United States have issued increasingly dire alerts about threats to shipping.
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Old July 20th, 2005, 04:44 PM   #12
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Pirate attacks drop by 30 percent in first half of 2005: watchdog

KUALA LUMPUR, July 20 (AFP) - Pirate attacks worldwide dropped 30 percent in the first half of 2005 but the situation worsened in hot spots Indonesia and Somalia which suffered increasingly violent assaults, an anti-piracy watchdog said Wednesday.

The Piracy Reporting Centre of the International Maritime Bureau said the number of reported attacks worldwide decreased to 127 from 182 in the same period in 2004, with 176 crew taken hostage and 12 crew kidnapped.

The notorious Malacca Strait between Indonesia and Malaysia -- used by some 50,000 ships a year carrying a third of world trade -- enjoyed a brief respite in the two months after the December 26 tsunamis with not a single attack reported.

However, the IMB said that waters off Indonesia continued to be the world's most dangerous -- recording 42 attacks or one third of the world's total -- and that renewed incidents in the strait have also become increasingly violent.

"Violence and intimidation of crew continues to be a hallmark of these attacks, with many of the pirates armed with guns and knives," it said of attacks near Indonesia's coast.

"Since the end of February 2005, eight attacks have been reported in the Malacca Strait with increasing violence and innocent crew being abducted for ransom."

The report noted that concern over piracy in the Malacca Strait has prompted security firms based in Singapore to offer armed escorts, but said the use of private companies could raise even more problems.

Shipowners are typically reluctant to have armed personnel on board ships, and some countries such as Malaysia have said they consider armed escorts in their waters illegal.

"Private armed response will raise the level of arms used by both sides and make these waters an even more dangerous place," said the report.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said the coast of Somalia, which had seen few attacks for almost two years, suffered a resurgence of assaults by pirates with guns and grenades, with eight incidents recorded in the past three months.

In one incident pirates lured a vessel by firing off distress flares, while in four other attacks the crew were held hostage for ransom.

"Pirates operating off Somalia have become increasingly audacious," IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said in a statement.

"Their demands for ransom are higher than ever before and negotiations for the release of the vessel and crew can become difficult and prolonged."

The World Food Programme earlier this month threatened to halt food distribution to two areas of Somalia unless a hijacked UN-chartered vessel carrying aid to Somali tsunami victims is released soon.

The ship was seized about 300 kilometers (185 miles) northeast of Mogadishu on June 27.

The hijackers have several times demanded a 500,000-dollar ransom for their release but both the WFP and the owners have refused.

Elsewhere in the report, the London-based IMB identified increasing attacks off Iraq's southern Basra oil terminal as a "new and worrying trend."

In spite of coalition naval ships being close by, there had been four serious incidents since April 22, it said.

Another area of concern was around Bonny River in Nigeria, where four attacks have been recorded since May 24 thbis year.

The IMB said the anchorages of Jakarta and Balikpapan in Indonesia and Chittagong in Bangladesh had also suffered more attacks.
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Old July 25th, 2005, 05:49 PM   #13
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Pirates say crew of hijacked UN aid ship to be released

NAIROBI, July 25 (AFP) - Gunmen have pledged to release the crew of a UN-chartered vessel carrying food aid for Somali tsunami victims which was hijacked off Somalia's coast last month, the shipowners said Monday.

After weeks of intense, delicate and frustrating negotiations, the hijackers got word to diplomats that the 10-member crew would be freed, according to Karim Kudrathi of the Motaku Shipping Agency in the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

"We have had the information (that they will be freed) from the Kenyan ambassador to Somalia but we are still waiting for their release," he told AFP by phone from Mombasa.

"We talked with the ship's captain at 1500 (1200 GMT) who told us that they had not yet left the ship," Kudrathi said, adding that only the crew and not the World Food Programme (WFP) cargo or the vessel itself would be released.

Officials in Nairobi said the gunmen would release eight Kenyan crew members but that the Sri Lankan captain and a Tanzanian engineer would remain with the ship.

"The two will remain at the ship, not essentially as hostages, but to take care of it since no one among the gunmen knows how it is operated," said a Kenyan official who had been briefed on the terms of the release.

The WFP, which chartered the ship and suspended aid deliveries to Somalia pending its release, said it was aware of reports of developments in the hijacking but could not confirm any action by the pirates.

The hijackers stormed the freighter carrying 850 tonnes of Japanese- and German-donated rice about 300 kilometers (185 miles) northeast of Mogadishu on June 27 and had been demanding a half-a-million-dollar ransom for its release.

The WFP has repeatedly refused to pay any ransom and negotiations between the hijackers, Somali elders and politicians and foreign diplomats had dragged on for weeks without any result.

The ship, the St Vincent and the Grenadines-registered MV Semlow, was on its way from Mombasa to Bossaso in Somalia's northeast Puntland region when it fell afoul of the pirates in waters deemed highly unsafe by international agencies.

Both the International Maritime Board (IMB), a division of the International Chamber of Commerce, and the United States have in recent months issued increasingly dire alerts about threats to shipping off the Somali coast.

The IMB said last week that the coast of Somalia, which had seen few attacks for almost two years, has suffered a resurgence of assaults by pirates with guns and grenades, with nine incidents recorded in the past three months.

Earlier this year, the IMB advised vessels not making calls in the region to stay at least 50 miles (85 kilometers), and preferably further, from the coast of the lawless nation.
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Old July 25th, 2005, 05:50 PM   #14
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Italian ship escapes pirates off Somalia
25 July 2005
Lloyd's List

Pirates armed with rifles and a bazooka fired on an Italian ro-ro boxship last Thursday as it travelled along the Somali coast, port authorities said, AP reports .

The ship escaped unharmed and none of the crew were hurt.

Two smaller vessels, carrying 10 people, attempted to board the 27,267 dwt, 1,182 teu Jolly Marrone some 100 miles (160 km) off the coast, a spokesman for Italy’s central port authority in Rome said.

As the master veered off and increased speed, the pirates fired on the ship and tried to pursue it but gave up after a short chase, the official said.

The spokesman, who asked that his name not be used, said no-one was wounded in the attack and added that the ship did not suffer any major damage.

The officers on board are Italians, but the total number of crew and their nationalities were not immediately known, the spokesman said.

The Linea Messina-owned ship was travelling from Mombasa, Kenya, to Djibouti. It continued on course for the East African port after the attack.

Piracy along the Somalia coast is common — several ships a month are attacked, their valuables stolen and the crews sometimes held for ransom.

Last month, Somali pirates hijacked a ship charted by the UN World Food Programme as it carried aid to tsunami victims in Somalia. The vessel and the crew are still being held.
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Old July 26th, 2005, 05:58 PM   #15
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Maritime pirates the next big terror threat: Beazley
26 July 2005
The Australian

KIM Beazley warned yesterday that al-Qa'ida-sponsored terrorists were moving into maritime piracy in Southeast Asia and that this could become "a likely avenue of attack on us".

The Opposition Leader said regional terror groups Jemaah Islamiah and the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf group were among those raising their involvement in regional piracy and that "ought to be of considerable discomfort to us".

"If we are going to effectively deter people from using our waterways for terrorist purposes, we've got to look at things like the amount of shipping that is conducted around our coastline by flag-of-convenience ships with the potential of fraudulent papers that related to their crews as well," Mr Beazley said. "These are serious problems which we have given no attention to."

Mr Beazley also said that less than 90 per cent of shipping containers arriving in Australia were inspected.

Maritime insurers have declared the Malacca Strait, between Sumatra and Malaysia and the world's busiest sea lane, as a shipping security threat.

With eight increasingly violent pirate attacks recorded since February, Lloyd's Market Association has placed the strait on a par with Iraq as a high-risk area for war and terrorism.

The move has sparked criticism from ship owners facing higher premiums that local governments had overstated the perceived terror threat.

Abu Sayyaf was behind the Superferry bombing in February last year that killed more than 100 people -- the country's worst terrorist attack.

The Malaysia-based Piracy Reporting Centre from the International Maritime Bureau said yesterday there was no evidence al-Qa'ida had moved into piracy.

Director Noel Choong said his centre -- which tracks and monitors global piracy attacks -- "would be the first to know" if terrorists had infiltrated piracy gangs operating in the Malacca Strait and the wider Asian region. Mr Choong said he was unaware of any risk posed to Australia.

"There is speculation (about terrorists being involved in piracy) but no evidence," he said. "But we always say that you can never discount the possibility."

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has warned that JI posed "real and urgent" threats to shipping.

"We know they have been studying maritime targets," he told the International Herald Tribune.

And Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister, Najib Razak, has proposed that Australia, along with the US and Japan, provide 24-hour aircraft surveillance for the Malacca Strait to help police the waterway and fight piracy.

About 50,000 ships -- carrying a quarter of the world's trade and half its oil -- pass through the Malacca Strait each year. Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the three coastal states that share jurisdiction, initiated joint patrols last year.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 07:50 AM   #16
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War veterans are guns for hire on the high seas; Armed patrols spark fears of violent clashes with pirates
Nick Meo
31 July 2005
South China Morning Post

Special-forces veterans are being hired by shipping companies to protect vessels from the growing menace of pirates in the Malacca Strait.

But this has raised fears they could escalate violence in one of the world's riskiest and most important sea routes that is a lifeline for Hong Kong and southern China trade.

Security companies are rushing to set up lucrative private navies for the seaway between Indonesia and Malaysia, which carries half the world's oil and more than 50,000 ships a year, to counter the threat from increasingly well-organised pirate gangs armed with machine guns and grenade launchers.

A report by the International Maritime Bureau last week warned that there had been a rise in violent incidents against crews last year, including four murders, although the number of attacks in Indonesian waters and the strait fell from 77 to 56.

December's tsunami caused a temporary drop in the attacks, probably because pirates were themselves hit, but there are worries that more desperate men from affected communities will now turn to piracy.

The first security company targeting the strait started operating from Singapore a year ago and five more have set up in the city state since, including British and American firms. Others are considering moving in, including companies with experience in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But government officials from countries along the strait have expressed concern at having heavily armed groups operating in or near their waters and the UN's International Maritime Organisation has warned that armed guards could spark dangerous clashes at sea with pirates.

The first company to offer its services to shipping firms was Background Asia Risk Solutions, which formerly specialised in kidnap and ransom operations.

The firm now has 60 former soldiers and policemen from the US and Commonwealth countries, who provide armed protection on board vessels or accompany them in a chartered patrol boat.

Managing director Alex Duperouzel said: "We are not in the business of eradicating piracy, but suppressing it and protecting our clients."

His firm accompanies about six vessels a month. The price is typically about US$100,000 per mission. So far they have not opened fire, but Mr Duperouzel says his men, including former special forces personnel, have been involved in confrontations with suspected pirates - who have always backed off when weapons are displayed.

One group of pirates warned off by his men later attacked another vessel, firing on it for 90 minutes.

There are believed to be 12 to 15 pirate gangs operating in the strait, based in lawless parts of southern Thailand and Indonesia, each with about 50 men and some allegedly with links to terrorist organisations like Jemaah Islamiah and to the Acehnese insurgent group GAM.

Security experts fear terrorists could attempt to hijack an oil tanker and turn it into a floating bomb to be piloted into a port city such as Singapore. A more common menace is kidnapping ship's masters - the going rate for ransom in the region is about US$120,000 - or stealing the cargo.

Ships have even been repainted and sold on by organised gangs, some of which are believed to have strong links to local politicians.

Mr Duperouzel said: "At the moment we are protecting a miniscule number of the ships which come through the straits. The masters we accompany are certainly glad of our protection, though.

"If you are attacked by pirates on the ocean, it can be hours before help arrives, and an attack might be over in 20 minutes. We can protect a ship or do whatever it takes to recover a ship or crew."

Worried Malaysian government officials have warned that such security groups "could be trigger-happy". The International Maritime Organisation also has expressed reservations about the new business. A spokesman said: "The carrying and use of firearms for personal protection or protection of a ship is strongly discouraged.

"This may encourage attackers to carry firearms, thereby escalating an already dangerous situation. Any firearms on board may themselves become an attractive target for an attacker."
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Old July 31st, 2005, 07:51 AM   #17
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Ship firms to fight Malacca Strait 'war risk' rating
Decision on trade artery 'shows cost of terrorism starting to bite'

Greg Torode and Raymond Ma
31 July 2005
South China Morning Post

Hong Kong's biggest shipowners are leading a regional charge to overturn a move by an influential group of London insurers to class the Malacca Strait a "war risk".

The rating reflects concerns that al-Qaeda could exploit piracy in the strait to attack ships.

Shipping industry figures fear the resulting higher premiums could upset delicately balanced trade through the strait, which funnels oil and raw materials to China and the rest of North Asia and manufactured goods to Europe.

Flanked by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the strait remains a hotbed of piracy. But the shipping companies say it is unfair and highly unusual to class it as a war zone.

The Joint War Committee insurers' grouping based in London, whose decisions are generally followed internationally, cited a private defence report that warns of an al-Qaeda attack on a "significant maritime target" this year.

The report by Aegis Defence Services says global logistics are now so finely tuned "that any disruption to the delivery of oil or gas to North Asia, or goods whose manufacturing has been outsourced to Asia for sale in Europe, would have fundamental negative economic consequences".

Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners' Association, said his group was deeply worried at the impact of the war risk assessment. Members include Cosco, China Navigation and Orient Overseas Container Line, the family firm of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. Mr Bowring warned it could hit economies across the region as increased costs inevitably flowed down industry supply chains.

"We are very concerned at the labelling of the Malacca Strait as a war risk. It is, of course, one of the world's biggest economic arteries and therefore this could impact Asia's economies," he said. "We need to find valid reasons to overturn the underwriters' move and I'm confident this can be done."

The association already has made its opposition known through a submission on behalf of the Asian Shipowners' Forum to the International Chamber of Shipping, which met the Joint War Committee in London on Thursday. No fresh decision emerged, apart from a pledge to hold further talks in London in two weeks. The association will represent the forum directly, along with regional governments.

A director of a prominent Hong Kong shipping-sector firm warned that the impact could be huge.

"We are all waiting to see quite how high these premiums are going to go," he said. "The Malacca Strait is our lifeline and it is just absurd to describe it as a war zone. It is a sign that the cost of terrorism is really starting to bite."

The director said the strait was no more a war zone than London or New York.

Daniel Poon Wing-choi, assistant chief economist with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, said: "It will add cost to Hong Kong exporters.

"Many of the Hong Kong exporters' products are under threat because their margins are very thin. This, in turn, is due to keen competition in their respective industries. One such industry is the garment sector in Hong Kong, since there are no quotas this year."
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Old August 6th, 2005, 12:37 AM   #18
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Anger at Malacca Strait risk label.
By JOHN BURTON
5 August 2005
Financial Times

Local governments and regional shipowners have criticised a recent move by London underwriters to designate the Malacca Strait as a "high risk" area that will raise insurance rates for the 50,000 vessels that annually use Asia's main waterway.

Shipowners are taking issue with a risk assessment provided to the Joint War Committee (JWC) of Lloyd's Market Association by Aegis Defence Services, a UK-based security consultancy.

Aegis, whose main shareholders include Frederick Forsyth, the thriller writer, has warned that al-Qaeda terrorists could hijack a tanker in the Malacca Strait and turn it into a large floating bomb. Other maritime experts have questioned the feasibility of this.

Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia this week asked the JWC to reconsider its decision, while the Singapore Shipping Association said the risk assessment was based on a "fundamental misunderstanding" of piracy and terrorism threats in the Malacca Strait. The Hong Kong Shipowners Association has also questioned the decision.

The shipping groups criticised the JWC for relying on only one source - Aegis - to assess risks in the Malacca Strait. The SSA noted piracy attacks in the region have been declining this year and they have been against mainly small coastal vessels instead of ocean-going ships, while there has been no report of "al-Qaeda inspired action".

The underwriters' group said it would hold a briefing with industry officials this month to explain its decision, announced in June. "Placing the Malacca Strait on the (war risk) list is highly emotive since it involves many people," said Ken Alston, managing director for marine, hull and liability practices at Marsh, a leading global insurance broker. "It is rare for a waterway, particularly one as busy as the Malacca Strait, to be put on the list."

Marsh estimates shipowners will face additional insurance premiums of about Dollars 50m (Euros 40m, Pounds 28m) annually. "Although the amount may be relatively small, shipowners will also have to hire more staff to comply with the paperwork involved. It will be a logistical nightmare to comply" because shipowners have to inform insurance underwriters of plans to navigate in waters of countries on the list. But the biggest impact may be felt by countries along the Malacca Strait since they could lose port business if shipowners found alternative routes, he said.
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Old August 10th, 2005, 01:52 AM   #19
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Somali pirates said to renew ransom demands for hijacked UN food ship

MOGADISHU, Aug 9 (AFP) - Somali pirates who hijacked a UN-charted food aid ship in late June have renewed ransom demands for the release of the vessel and its crew, scuppering a deal for their freedom, clan elders in Somalia said Tuesday.

Amid conflicting accounts over whether the gunmen holding the freighter had agreed to unconditionally release the ship as announced by the World Food Programme (WFP) at the weekend, they said the hijackers remained in control of the vessel.

"The militiamen that took the ship will not release it unless two of their demands are met," said Ahmed Abdi, an elder in Somalia's Haradere district near where the MV Semlow was being held offshore.

"They want the food to be unloaded in Haradere or 500,000 dollars be paid as they demanded earlier," he told AFP by radio. "The hijackers offered no guarantee of release and further negotiations are required."

Another elder, who asked to remain anonymous, said he believed the reported agreement -- under which the ship, 10-member crew and cargo were to have been released by Monday or Tuesday -- had fallen through.

"There is no way the crew can go without further negotiations," the man said. "I hope the negotiations would be helpful for the release of the crew members before more complications are created."

A radio operator in Haradere said there signs of a split between the hijackers with one group rejecting the WFP-announced agreement negotiated by elders, community leaders and officials from Somalia's transitional government.

"If the militiamen fight each other that would come with serious security risks to the ship and its crew members," the operator said.

The WFP on Saturday announced that after protracted negotiations, elders and clan leaders had agreed on behalf of the pirates that the ship, crew and cargo would be freed unconditionally within three days.

Under the deal, the 850 tonnes of German- and Japanese-donated rice the MV Semlow is carrying were to be offloaded at the port of El Maan near Mogadishu and the ship and crew -- eight Kenyans, a Tanzanian engineer and a Sri Lankan captain -- allowed to return to their home port of Mombasa in Kenya.

At the time, the ship's owners had expressed skepticism over the reported agreement and on Tuesday they told AFP they had heard nothing from the ship or crew. WFP officials in Nairobi said they, too, were unaware of any developments.

The hijackers seized the the St Vincent and the Grenadines-registered ship some 300 kilometres (185 miles) northeast of the capital Mogadishu on June 27 and demanded the 500,000-dollar (404,000-euro) ransom for its release.

The ship was on its way from Mombasa to Bossaso in Somalia's northeast Puntland region when it fell afoul of the pirates in waters deemed highly unsafe by international agencies.

Both the International Maritime Board (IMB), a division of the International Chamber of Commerce, and the United States have in recent months issued increasingly dire alerts about threats to shipping off the Somali coast.

The IMB said this week that the coast of Somalia, which had seen few attacks for almost two years, has suffered a resurgence of assaults by pirates with guns and grenades, with nine incidents recorded since mid-July.
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Old August 13th, 2005, 03:59 AM   #20
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Joint War Committee to hold peace talks with owners on Malacca Strait
10 August 2005
Lloyd's List

SHIPOWNERS are set to meet a key group of Lloyd’s players later this month in a bid to reverse the unpopular Malacca Strait war-risk designation, which is expected to lead to higher premiums for ships using the waterway, writes David Osler.

The Joint War Committee of the Lloyd’s Market Association has faced widespread protests since the June decision. Aegis Defence Services — a London-based specialist security consultancy which advised on the decision — has also drawn some flak.

Leading the critics have been the governments of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Many shipowners are unhappy at having to pay more out in hull insurance as a result of the move.

The shipowners’ associations of both Singapore and Hong Kong have expressed concern.

The most recent recruit to the campaign is BIMCO, which yesterday issued a statement implicitly calling for the JWC to remove the Malacca Strait from its risk list. Matters will come to a head at a meeting in London between the JWC, Aegis and leading shipping trade associations, hosted by the International Chamber of Shipping, on August 16.

Neal Roberts of the JWC secretariat said: “We are going to the meeting to explain why the area is on the list.” He declined to comment on whether the body would stick to its stance.

However, other observers do not see back-pedalling as likely. “It would be so damaging to the credibility of the JWC,” one security specialist said. Others contended that the Malacca Strait does carry additional risk so it is not unreasonable for underwriters to seek higher premiums.

- Thailand is likely to be invited to join Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in their recently announced ‘eye in the sky’ initiative, according to local media reports.

The three littoral states around the Malacca Strait are seeking round-the-clock aeroplane security patrols.

However, they lack sufficient aircraft and have rejected offers of help from the US and China.
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