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Old October 26th, 2005, 05:00 PM   #41
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IMB calls for help as pirates strike again off Somalia
25 October 2005
Lloyd's List

THREE ships have been seized by pirates off the Somali coast in recent days as hijackers extended their attacks to vessels way out at sea, writes Janet Porter.

The International Maritime Bureau is now calling for a naval patrol off the southern Somali coast to intercept hijacked ships before they reach Somali waters.

“There is little else that can be done in such a lawless country,” said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, director of the bureau.

His plea for more navy ships followed reports that a Maltese-flagged tanker carrying gas oil from Bahrain to South Africa had been attacked some 100 miles off the Somali capital Mogadishu last week.

The Malta Maritime Authority is investigating a distress signal sent by the 30,514 dwt San Carlos.

A bulk carrier, believed to be the Liberian-flagged Panagia, is also thought to have been seized.

These two latest incidents follow the hijacking of a ship carrying aid as part of the UN World Food Programme. The Torgelow went to the help of a sistership, the Semlow, that had been seized by pirates. Although that ship has since been released, apparently after its cargo had been discharged, the Torgelow has not been heard from.

What is alarming authorities, such as the IMB, is the fact that ships are being attacked 90 or 100 miles out at sea where they would usually expect to be safe from raiders.

The hijackers are using quite small but fast boats to reach their targets, and then are forcing them into Somali territorial waters. There is already a naval patrol off the northern coast of Somalia to protect merchant shipping, and now the IMB is hoping that vessels sailing further south can be guarded as well.

Since March, there have been 23 attacks off the southern and eastern coast of Somalia, the IMB said. Once seized, the hijackers typically demand a ransom for the safe return of the vessel and crew.

The Semlow was held for over 14 weeks before being freed. The Torgelow was attacked by the same gang.

The pirates appear to have the protection and support of local warlords and see these hijackings as a lucrative source of revenue with minimal risk to themselves.

“This is a region with a high number of coalition naval vessels that could play an important role in responding to these crimes,” the bureau said.

Usually, the attackers approach in one or two fast boats, and fire on the ship with automatic weapons and sometimes rocket-propelled grenades

They will aim at the bridge windows and force the captain to slow down or stop.
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Old November 2nd, 2005, 01:04 AM   #42
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Piracy risk is more than just the Malacca Strait
Wider Indonesian waters pose even greater threat to world’s shipping, says MIG model, writes Thomas Turner
1 November 2005
Lloyd's List

INDONESIAN waters are the highest risk area in the world for marine piracy, according to MIG’s new Piracy Threat Assessment model.

Whereas the majority of analysis on piracy risks tends to highlight threats in the Malacca Strait, MIG’s analysis reveals that the remainder of Indonesian sovereign territory presents a significantly higher overall risk to shipping than the Strait itself.

MIG’s proprietary risk model uses an optimised statistical approach to the assess piracy threats in 13 key zones around the world.

The model analyses the patterns in recorded pirate attacks including their time of day, location, method of attack, class of ship attacked and damages sustained, to produce an informed and up-to-date picture of the risks posed to vessels.

The model predicts that no less than 70 attacks to ships at anchor or underway will take place in Indonesian territory, outside of the Malacca Strait, over the next 12 months.

This compares to fewer than 30 within the Malacca Strait. It also makes Indonesia far and away the highest risk region, with East African waters — in particular Somalia — next in line.

These numbers deserve further analysis. Of course, Indonesian waters cover a substantially larger area than does the strait (an arguable explanation for the higher predicted incident rate), but more relevant than the size of the zone is the volume of shipping passing through it.

As one of the busiest choke points in the world, the Malacca Strait would be expected to have the higher rating, but this is not so.

The answer, in fact, lies to a large extent in the frequency with which ships are being attacked while at anchor in Indonesian waters.

Indeed, nearly 50 of the predicted 70 attacks over the next 12 months are expected to occur while alongside.

The risk is particularly severe in Balikpapan and Jakarta anchorages, which this year have between them accounted for around half of reported acts of piracy while at anchor in the country.

High rates of attack in Balikpapan, on Kalimantan’s east coast, should come as no great surprise.

The level of lawlessness in the region is extremely high and organised crime prevails.

People smuggling and document fraud are also commonplace. The involvement of local officials in these practices adds to the problem.

Indeed, an article was published earlier this month in the Indonesian daily Kompas describing how it has now become “traditional” for militants and criminals to move between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines via the East Kalimantan coast to Sabah and Mindanao.

The article describes the security in the region as “lax” and goes as far as to call the East Kalimantan coast and interior a “no man’s land”.

The existence of such a trafficking route also goes some way to explaining the heightened frequency of piracy attack in the Sulawesi Sea.

In Jakarta too, while the level of law enforcement is higher, organised and petty crime remains a problem — marine piracy being just one aspect of this.

Elsewhere, attacks at ports have been reported in recent months in Surabaya, East Java; Makassar, South Sulawesi; Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan and Belawan, Malacca Strait.

At sea, MIG currently sees the highest risks in Indonesian waters concentrated in the Malacca Strait, the Sulawesi Sea (in particular, in waters surrounding the Sulu Archipelago, as discussed above) and the Makassar Strait.

A number of attacks have occurred in these areas in recent months involving armed attack, hostage-taking and hijacking.

MIG’s Piracy Threat Assessment is a new tool designed to assist its clients in the marine and insurance industries in understanding the risks posed to their shipping/marine operations.

It is one of a variety of bespoke services that MIG provides to facilitate the identification, understanding and minimisation of risk exposure across a number of industries world-wide.

Thomas Turner is an analyst at the Merchant International Group, which specialises in strategic research and corporate intelligence.
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Old November 6th, 2005, 03:32 PM   #43
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Pirates May Have Also Attacked U.N. Ship
By RODRIQUE NGOWI
6 November 2005

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - The pirates who attacked a luxury cruise liner off Somalia's coast were likely to have been from the same group that hijacked a U.N.-chartered vessel in June and held its crew and food aid hostage for 100 days, a maritime official said Sunday.

Two boats full of pirates approached the Seabourn Spirit about 100 miles off the Somali coast Saturday and fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles while the heavily armed bandits tried to get onboard.

The ship escaped by shifting to high speed and changing course. Its passengers, mostly Americans with some Australians and Europeans, were gathered in a lounge for safety, and nobody was injured, said Bruce Good, spokesman for the Miami-based Seabourn Cruise Line, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp.

Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Program, said the location of the attack would indicate the pirates were probably from a group that seized a U.N.-chartered ship on a humanitarian mission on June 27.

That group -- led by Mohamed Abdi Hassan and a warlord nicknamed Dhagweyne -- is one of three well-organized bands operating along Somalia's 1,880-mile coastline, the longest in Africa. Several other bands are in the country, Mwangura and U.N. officials said.

Mwangura said the attack on the luxury cruise liner shows that pirates from anarchic Somalia are becoming bolder and more ambitious in their efforts to hijack ships for ransom and loot.

Somali pirates are trained fighters with maritime knowledge. They identify their targets by listening to the international radio channel used by ships at sea, Mwangura said.

"Sometimes they trick the mariners by pretending that they have a problem and they should come to assist them -- they send bogus distress signals," Mwangura said. "They are getting more powerful, more vicious and bolder day by day."

The Semlow was the first U.N.-chartered ship to be seized while on a humanitarian mission to Somalia and the 10 crew members were held for more than three months while the pirates tried to get the United Nations to pay ransom -- which it refused to do.

The hijackers agreed to let the ship go after it ran out of fuel amid negotiations by clan elders.

Somalia has had no effective central government since opposition leaders ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The leaders then turned on each other, transforming the nation of 7 million into a patchwork of battling fiefdoms ruled by heavily armed militias.

Somalia lies along key shipping lanes linking the Mediterranean with the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean and there has been a sharp rise in piracy this year along its coastline, with 25 attacks reported since March 15, according to the International Maritime Bureau, a division of the International Chamber of Commerce that tracks trends in piracy. In 2004, the organization reported just two attacks off the Horn of Africa.

U.S. and NATO warships patrol the region to protect vessels in deeper waters further out, but they are not permitted in Somalia's territorial waters.

Saturday's attackers never got close enough to board the cruise ship, but one member of the 161-person crew was injured by shrapnel, the cruise line said.

"Our suspicion at this time is that the motive was theft," Good said, adding that the crew had been trained for "various scenarios, including people trying to get on the ship that you don't want on the ship."

Passengers awoke to the sound of gunfire as two 25-foot inflatable boats approached the liner, the British news agency Press Association reported.

Mark Rogers, one of the passengers aboard the Seabourn Spirit, described the experience as frightening but said the crew responded very well. "It was absolutely amazing how little panic there was," he told AP Radio.

The Spirit was bound for Mombasa, Kenya, at the end of a 16-day voyage from Alexandria, Egypt. It was expected to reach the Seychelles on Monday, then continue on its previous schedule to Singapore, company officials said.

The 440-foot-long, 10,000-ton cruise ship, which is registered in the Bahamas, sustained minor damage, Good said. The liner, which had its maiden voyage in 1989, can accommodate 208 guests.


Associated Press reporter Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.
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Old November 6th, 2005, 03:34 PM   #44
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Couple recounts pirate attack on Miami company's cruise ship
6 November 2005

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) - A California couple aboard a luxury cruise liner targeted by armed pirates off the east African coast recounted the terrifying moments as the bandits tried to board the ship in an e-mail to friends and family.

Two boats full of pirates, armed with grenade launchers and machine guns, approached the Seabourn Spirit about 100 miles off the Somali coast Saturday and opened fire while the bandits tried to get onboard, according to the Miami-based Seabourn Cruise Line, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp.

But the captain "swerved the ship sharply to the left trying unsuccessfully to ram the oncoming boat and then took off at full speed," Harry and Jan Hufford, of Oakmont, Calif., said in the e-mail obtained by The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa.

The couple, both retired southern California government officials, wrote home shortly after the attack to assure loved ones that they were OK. None of the 151 passengers abroad the ship were injured, but one member of the 161-person crew was injured by shrapnel, cruise officials said.

According to the Huffords, the captain told passengers over the public address system around 5:30 a.m. "that a boat with armed men was coming along the starboard side and we were to lock ourselves in our cabins."

The captain later instructed passengers to gather in the ship's restaurant, and as the Huffords were leaving their cabin, they heard a heavy thud, the e-mail said. A rocket had hit a cabin nearby, "but it jammed in the metal balcony door frame and shattered the glass but fortunately exploded downward," it said.

"There are bullet holes at several locations and two of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the lounge at the rear of the ship were shattered by bullets," the Huffords wrote.

The Spirit, which sustained minor damage, was bound for Mombasa, Kenya, at the end of a 16-day voyage from Alexandria, Egypt. It was expected to reach the Seychelles on Monday, and then continue on its previous schedule to Singapore, company officials said.
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Old November 7th, 2005, 03:40 PM   #45
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Liner 'too close' to pirate waters
Greg Roberts
8 November 2005
The Australian

THE luxury liner with 22 Australians on board that was attacked by pirates off the Somali coast was cruising much closer to shore than the distance recommended to avoid pirates.

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer suggested terrorists were involved in the weekend attack on the Seabourn Spirit, but it bore the hallmarks of recent attacks by pirates off Somalia.

A crewman was injured on Saturday when the $1000-a-night vessel was attacked about 160km off the Somali coast, with men in two inflatable boats firing heavy machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades at it.

A visit by Australian officials yesterday to the vessel as it was anchored offshore from the Seychelles capital of Mahe confirmed that 19 Australian passengers and three Australian crew were safe.

Seychelles-based American military personnel inspected damage to the vessel, which was carrying 151 passengers and 161 crew, and retrieved ordnance.

Mr Downer said yesterday the fact that the attackers were so well armed indicated it was "quite possible" they were terrorists whose intent was to kill people rather than rob the vessel.

Mr Downer said that because the Bahamas-registered vessel was based in Miami, "there was presumably a supposition that it was an American ship, and certainly there were a lot of Americans on board".

However, 25 piracy incidents have been reported off the Somali coast over the past seven months, including recent attacks involving weaponry and inflatable boats similar to those used at the weekend.

The International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre issued an alert last week warning that "heavily armed pirates are now attacking ships further away" from the Somali coast; one vessel was attacked 200km offshore.

The centre recommended that vessels stay "as far away as possible" from the coast, with 280km considered a reasonable distance.

An Australian spokesman for the vessel, John Richardson, of Carnival Australia, which includes P&O Cruises, said the Seabourn Spirit was aware of the warnings and as a result was travelling east, instead of west, of Socrota Island.

"The ship was presumed to be far enough from the coast," Mr Richardson said.

Security on liners would be reviewed, he added.

Australian Maritime Union secretary Paddy Crumlin said Mr Downer had attempted to implicate terrorists for political reasons.

"The real issue is a badly regulated international industry based on flags-of-convenience ships where nobody is accountable for setting standards," Mr Crumlin said.
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Old November 7th, 2005, 07:49 PM   #46
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Maritime union seeks action to protect ships from pirates off Somalia
6 November 2005

LONDON (AP) - A British maritime union called on Sunday for extra protection for ships traveling off the coast of Somalia in the face of an upsurge of piracy in the region.

Two boats full of heavily armed pirates attacked a luxury cruise liner about 100 miles (160 kilometers) off the Somali coast Saturday and tried to get onboard.

Andrew Linnington of the National Union of Marine Aviation and Shipping Transport, which represents merchant navy officers, said the union, known as NUMAST, was holding urgent talks with ship owners this week to discuss the problem of piracy off Somalia's coast, a situation he said was close to being out of control.

Linnington said there had been 23 reported attacks off the Somalian coast since March, including attacks on two United Nations ships carrying relief supplies.

"We believe there should be a naval task force, particularly off Somalia, to try and stop the attacks. In the last 10 years hundreds of seamen have been killed and thousands injured in pirate attacks across the world," Linnington said.

"It's got to the stage where it's anarchy on the sea waves and this latest incident shows it's time governments got their acts together."

The cruise ship -- the Seabourn Spirit -- escaped on Saturday by shifting to high speed and changing course. None of its passengers -- Americans, Australians and Europeans -- were injured.
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Old November 8th, 2005, 04:44 PM   #47
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Sonic blasts used against pirates
Greg Roberts
9 November 2005
The Australian

PIRATES attacking a luxury liner with 22 Australians on board off the Somali coast may have aborted their assault after being hit by a sonic blast so powerful it can burst eardrums.

Crew on board the Seabourn Spirit directed the long-range acoustic device at two boatloads of pirates as they fired rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns at the vessel about 160km off Somalia on Saturday.

Australian passenger Bob Meagher has claimed in media interviews in the Seychelles, where the liner was diverted, that a security guard was wounded in the head by shrapnel while operating the device.

The guard was the sole casualty among the 151 passengers and 161 crew aboard the vessel, which was cruising between Alexandria in Egypt and Mombasa in Kenya. He was not seriously injured.

An Australian spokesman for the vessel, John Richardson of Carnival Australia, which includes P&O Cruises, confirmed that the dish-shaped device was targeted at the attackers.

Mr Richardson said the device had been fitted to other liners in the Carnival group. "We are keen to assure passengers that we have effective security measures in place."

Carnival is investigating whether the device was effective in deterring the attackers from pursuing the Seabourn Spirit as it changed course, shifted into high speed and headed further out to sea. The device was developed by the US military as a deterrent to small boats after the terrorist attack on the USS Cole off Yemen in 2000.

It is attached to the rear of a vessel and directs a sonic beam at the target, who hears a high-pitched, ear-splitting sound as loud as 150 decibels.

The operator hears nothing.

The effect can be to confuse the target, who may think he is under heavy fire. Burst ear drums can result at distances of up to 100m.

A version of the device, referred to by the US military as a "non-lethal weapon", has been used for crowd control by US forces in Iraq and by Israeli troops against Palestinian protesters.

The Australian reported yesterday that the Seabourn Spirit was cruising much closer to the Somali coast than the distance recommended by the International Maritime Bureau to avoid pirates.
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Old November 9th, 2005, 05:01 AM   #48
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Stowaways quizzed as dead taken off ship
Amanda Banks
9 November 2005
The Australian

PAINFULLY thin and unable to walk without support, two stowaways who survived more than three weeks in a locked cargo hold where their two companions died were taken from a Moroccan ship when it docked yesterday.

The stowaways, aged 22 and 32, are suspected of sneaking into the airtight hold of the Furness Karumba during foggy and overcast conditions when the bulk fertiliser carrier was loaded with rock phosphate at the Moroccan port of Laayoure on October 7.

Yesterday, the two survivors -- discovered on November 3 by crew checking for damage after rough weather -- were escorted to Fremantle Hospital by Immigration officers for physical and mental health examinations.

The cause of their companions' deaths -- suspected to be starvation, dehydration or suffocation -- is being investigated by police and the West Australian coroner's office.

The Furness Karumba docked at the industrial port of Kwinana, about 20km south of Perth, at 4.30am yesterday. West Australian police, state Fire and Emergency Services officers and Customs and Immigration Department officials were involved in the operation.

The surviving men were understood to be from Morocco and Mauritania, but the age, nationality and identity of the two dead stowaways was not known.

Detective Sergeant Trevor Troy, of Rockingham police, said a medical officer had been on board the ship and the captain had understood not to give the men solid food, instead providing them with soft food and water as the boat steamed to Perth.

Detective Troy said a log had been kept by the ship's crew and a stowaway plan had been put into action. "Everything has been followed by the book, as we can see it," he said.

The identities of the bulk carrier's 21 crew and captain had been checked by authorities yesterday. "Obviously (the stowaways) were desperate to find somewhere else to live," Detective Troy said.

He said it was not clear whether the four men -- who had met only weeks before their joint bid to escape and knew each other by first name only -- had taken supplies of food or water into the cargo hold. It was hoped that documentation would be found in the cargo hold to help identify the dead men.

Detective Troy said it was expected the surviving pair would be admitted to hospital and interviewed before being transferred to immigration detention. It was possible they would also need to be interviewed by police in the effort to identify their companions.

It was not known if the stowaways had been aware they were heading for Australia.
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Old November 9th, 2005, 05:02 AM   #49
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Experts say cruises vulnerable, but lines defend security plans
By JOHN PAIN
8 November 2005

MIAMI (AP) - It sounds like a scene in a Hollywood blockbuster: Pirates hit a luxury cruise ship with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns off a lawless African country. The cruise crew tries to ram both pirate boats, uses an earsplitting high-tech weapon on the attackers and evades them.

That was the real-life situation the crew and passengers of the Seabourn Spirit found themselves in off Somalia last weekend. With piracy common in some areas and terrorism fears present after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, cruise lines say they train their crews and have security measures to respond effectively to these threats.

But security experts say that despite all the preparations, cruise liners are vulnerable to attacks like this one or the deadly bombing by al-Qaida-linked militants of the USS Cole in Yemen five years ago in which 17 sailors were killed.

"No ship apart from a naval vessel is really prepared to protect against a waterborne assault of the sort against the Cole," said Kim Petersen, president of maritime security consultant SeaSecure and a former cruise line security official. "Even those ships that are best equipped to cope with such a threat, in the case of the Cole, are in a difficult situation."

Cruise industry officials said the Spirit's successful efforts to repel the attackers validate security plans that all ships must have in place under U.S. and international law. They point out that no passenger was injured on the Spirit and just one crew member had minor injuries.

"Cruising is and has been one of the most safe vacations that you can engage in and will remain so," said Michael Crye, president of the International Council of Cruise Lines, an industry lobbying group.

Cruise lines are in constant communication with authorities on land and the U.S. military responded to the attack on the Spirit, he said. The U.S. counterterrorism task force for the Horn of Africa is based in Djibouti, which borders Somalia.

But he said that attacks on cruise ships are rare -- this was the first since Palestinian terrorists hijacked the Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean in 1985 and killed a wheelchair-bound American Jew.

Cruise lines are reluctant to talk about their specific security plan for fear of compromising safety. Crye said cruise companies are allowed to arm their crews, but he wouldn't say if they did.

Some security consultants say that cruise lines are reluctant to place armed guards onboard fearing that it would tarnish their image with passengers.

Other known defenses on cruise ships include high-pressure fire hoses used to prevent intruders from boarding ships.

That method was also used by the Spirit's crew. Seabourn Cruise Line, the Carnival Corp. subsidiary that operates the ship, also has bought the high-tech sonic weapons, which were developed for the U.S. military after the Cole bombing.

The Long Range Acoustical Device sends earsplitting noise in a concentrated beam. Its maker, American Technology Corp. of San Diego, doesn't know of any cruise lines other than Miami-based Seabourn that have installed them, said A.J. Ballard, the company's director of military operations.

Some security experts have questioned why the Spirit was only about 100 miles (161 kilometers) off the Somali coast when the International Maritime Bureau has for months warned ships to stay at least 150 miles (241 kilometers) away from that coast because of an increase in pirate attacks.

Many cruise lines have tried to avoid the area, but vessels going from the Mediterranean to Asia or Africa must pass through there.

Seabourn spokesman Bruce Good said the line hasn't decided whether to change its routes. But he said the Spirit was on its highest alert while there.

"As far as we're concerned the incident is behind us. We are now in the next phase, getting people where they need to be and continuing with what we do for a living, which as make people happy on board," he said.

Seabourn has said it appeared the attackers were pirates whose motivation was robbery.

But Petersen, the security consultant, doubted that was the case. Pirates, he said, would have tried to disable the ship's steering and propulsion if they were trying to board. Witnesses, however, said the attackers shot grenades at the passengers.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Monday that the attackers might have been terrorists.

Either way, cruise lines fear that their image as safe havens of fun could be tarnished. After the Achille Lauro hijacking, the eastern Mediterranean cruise market had a sharp decline in traffic. The Sept. 11 attacks forced cruise companies to offer heavy discounts to lure leery passengers onto ships, and ticket prices are only now getting back to pre-attack levels as the industry is having a year of record profits and traffic.

Because no one was killed in the Spirit attack, travelers probably won't be spooked, said Jeff Sharlach, chairman and CEO of The Jeffrey Group, a public relations firm that runs crisis management teams for companies like FedEx Corp.

"You want to avoid making it into a bigger news story than it is naturally. Sometimes if you respond too aggressively, you make it more frightening than it is," said Sharlach, whose company doesn't work with cruise lines.

------

On the Net:

International Council of Cruise Lines: http://www.iccl.org
Carnival Corp.: http://www.carnivalcorp.com
Seabourn Cruise Line: http://www.seabourn.com
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Old November 14th, 2005, 12:53 AM   #50
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Pirates step up attacks off coast of Somalia
Five times in past week: Mysterious 'mother ship' spotted

Daniel Wallis
Reuters
12 November 2005

NAIROBI - Somali pirates attacked five ships in the past week in a sharp rise of banditry apparently directed from a mysterious "mother ship" prowling the busy Indian Ocean corridor, shipping experts said yesterday.

Most vessels escaped, but one was commandeered, bringing to seven the number of vessels now being held captive along with their crews by pirates plundering the state's coastline, the International Maritime Bureau said.

"Insecurity off the Somali coast has escalated sharply -- it is very worrying," said Andrew Mwangura, program co-ordinator at the Kenyan Seafarers' Association. He said nine ships, including two Arabian dhows, had been seized.

Mr. Mwangura said five vessels were attacked in the past week alone, including the attempt last Saturday to board the Bahamas-registered Seabourn Spirit, which was carrying 151 Western tourists.

Rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles were fired at the U.S.-owned Spirit by gunmen in two small speedboats, but the ship's captain managed to change course and speed away.

The northern and southern coastline of Somalia, Africa's longest, links trade routes for such key commodities as oil, grains and iron ore from the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea down to the Mozambique Channel. Thousands of merchant ships snake past the Somali coast to the Cape of Good Hope every year.

Some of the world's leading shipping bodies called on the UN International Maritime Organization and the UN Security Council to urgently address the issue.

"We think it most important that this clearly growing threat to the safety of ships on the high seas is taken up at the highest diplomatic level," a joint letter to IMO's Secretary-General read.

"The attacks against shipping off Somalia have direct implications for the security of the world's transport supply chain."

At the centre of the wave of recent attacks is a mysterious mother ship that has been spotted three times since late July drifting off the northeast coast of Somalia.

"We understand that this is the vessel that is launching the speedboats that go to attack the victims," Mr. Mwangura said.

"We are still trying to discover the name of this ship, its owner, its nationality and the identity of the crew on board."

The International Maritime Bureau, which said the situation was completely out of control, confirmed a mother ship had been involved in the attacks, which were taking place way out to sea.

The piracy watchdog has warned merchant ships to stay at least 200 nautical miles away from the Somali coast, but says its warnings have gone unheeded.

After two years of relative calm, the watchdog said 32 pirate attacks had been recorded since mid-March, including raids on ships carrying supplies for the UN World Food Program.

Mr. Mwangura said among the ships being held hostage by pirates were vessels registered in Thailand, Taiwan, Malta and Ukraine. More than 100 crew members were being held for ransom.

They include the 26 crew, mostly Thai nationals, of a Thai-flagged ship carrying sugar from Brazil to Yemen, which was hijacked close to the coast north-east of Mogadishu early Monday.

Somalia has been ruled by rival warlords since dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. Many of the warlords are believed to run gangs who smuggle drugs, weapons and people by road, sea and air around the region.

Piracy is a lucrative and growing offshoot of this trade.

On Wednesday the Security Council scolded Somalia's squabbling government and urged rival factions to come together to confront the chaos and piracy plaguing the lawless nation.

The council expressed "serious concern" about the recent wave of pirate attacks off the coast, and called on regional powers and international bodies to address the problem urgently.
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Old November 14th, 2005, 12:54 AM   #51
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The low seas
Piracy has returned to menace the world's shipping

12 November 2005
The Times

The decision by Lloyd's of London to treat the threat of piracy as a war risk, rather than part of a ship's hull insurance, underlines the extent and the costs of this ancient scourge, which has returned to the high seas. Piracy, which flourished for centuries along the North African coast and in the Caribbean, is once again taking a heavy toll. Last week a cruise liner, sailing past the Horn of Africa, was attacked by pirates in speedboats armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. The crew took evasive action, using an acoustic bang to simulate gunfire. But one of the rockets penetrated the ship and the lives of 300 passengers were put in danger.

The attack, far out in international waters, was one of about 25 hijackings and attempted seizures since March by pirates operating from Somalia. Two ships carrying United Nations food aid have been attacked, as well as oil tankers and small cargo vessels. The pirates, formidably armed with rockets and missiles, usually force ships back to the coast, ransom or kill the crew and sell the cargo on the black market. Often allied to Somali warlords and safe from international pursuit, these seaborne terrorists have grown ever bolder. The long Somali coastline is now one of the most dangerous for international shipping.

Stamping out piracy is proving almost as difficult nowadays as it was when Blackbeard terrorised the American colonies. In the 18th century, it took the Royal Navy years to hunt him down and break the power of other pirate marauders.

Western navies are legally entitled to take action against pirates in international waters.But most attacks now occur off the coasts of countries unwilling or unable to do anything. The Straits of Malacca, through which a third of the world's shipping passes, have long been the most dangerous spot. But attacks have also been increasing off Nigeria, between Borneo and Malaysia, in the seas around Bangladesh and, ominously, in the Gulf close to Iraq.

The total number of attacks fell last year, largely because the Indonesian Navy has, at last, begun to tackle the Malacca pirates and because many tankers are now taking on armed security guards. But in the first nine months of this year about 141 ships were attacked and boarded, 15 were fired on and 11 hijacked. Of the 259 crew members taken hostage, 12 are still missing, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

The move by Lloyd's to recategorise piracy as a war risk is realistic: not only will it deter shipping from taking risks in high piracy zones, but it also underlines the menace of seaborne terrorism. Since 9/11, Western security services -as well as ports such as Singapore -have been deeply worried by the threat of a hijacked tanker being used as a massive floating bomb. Better protection, such as global positioning systems, an electronic "fence" to prevent boarding and high-pressure hoses, are essential. More importantly, the main shipping nations should pool resources to identify and track down pirate gangs. The world's navies must make the high seas safe again.
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Old November 19th, 2005, 01:42 AM   #52
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Horror on the High Seas
Modern-day pirates brazenly attack a cruise ship.
What happens if they join forces with terrorists?




Simon Robinson with Xan Rice/MombasaSimon Elegant/Kuala Lumpur; Sally B. Donnelly/Washington
21 November 2005
Time



The first hint of morning light was creeping across the Indian Ocean as the 10,000-ton Miami-based cruise ship Seabourn Spirit motored south along the Somali coast just over a week ago. Most of the 312 people aboard--151 passengers and 161 crew members--were asleep; the boat was expected in Mombasa, Kenya, that afternoon. Then, out of the gloom, came a burst of gunfire. Passengers later said they saw inflatable rubber boats speeding toward the Spirit, each carrying four or five men dressed in black and armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. As the pirates drew closer, they began unloading their weapons onto the 439-ft.-long, seven-deck cruise ship. Passengers scrambled to a central lounge for safety as two grenades slammed into the Spirit, where at least one of them exploded. Just as the pirates tried to board, the Spirit's captain managed to shift into overdrive and head farther out to sea. Frustrated, the bandits turned back toward the coast.

The Spirit's harrowing escape may sound like a scene from a Johnny Depp movie, but the danger posed by the new generation of pirates is all too real. The International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center estimates that in Somali waters alone, attacks have risen from 2 in 2004 to 32 so far this year. Worldwide, piracy incidents could top 300 in 2005. Although attacks on cruise ships like the Spirit are unusual, piracy is one of the world's most stubborn criminal plagues: in waterways around the world, armed gangs wreak havoc with trade routes, interfering with the delivery of relief supplies, holding crews for ransom and stealing tens of millions of dollars in goods every year. Asia remains the most notorious region for piracy, but the waters off the coast of Somalia are fast catching up. Scores of vessels like the Spirit pass along the East African coast every day en route from the Suez Canal and Red Sea to ports in Kenya, Tanzania and countries farther south. The attempted hijacking of the Spirit has convinced maritime authorities, who believe some of Somalia's pirates may be operating from a mysterious "mother ship" that has been spotted drifting off the Somali coast, that Somali pirates are becoming more aggressive and skillful--and increasingly hard to stop. Says Noel Choong, director of the Piracy Reporting Center: "The Somalia coast has become a pirates' paradise."

The surge in piracy is worrisome to counterterrorism experts, who fear that terrorist groups might be tempted to collude with pirates- -whose motivations are more mercenary than ideological--to strike maritime targets. In Southeast Asia, where bandits regularly attack ships passing through the Malacca Straits and the South China Sea, Asian security officials fear that a terrorist cell could hire a gang of pirates to help attack an oil tanker or a container ship. Singapore's former Deputy Prime Minister and national security czar Tony Tan said late last year that "the increased frequency of piracy attacks [and] the changing pattern of how the attacks are carried out lead us to fear the worst."

For those seeking to cause mayhem on the high seas, the waters off Somalia are among the world's most alluring. Somalia has lacked an effective central government for 14 years, and the U.S. believes that al-Qaeda--linked militants operate there. Combined Task Force 150, a multinational naval unit, patrols in the nearby Gulf of Aden and the waters around the Horn of Africa, searching for suspected terrorists who may be moving equipment or people by sea or planning a maritime attack. But with its attention focused on stopping terrorists, the U.S. Navy has been hesitant about pursuing pirates who roam the area. Commander Jeff Breslau, a U.S. Navy spokesman in Bahrain, says coalition forces will help ships in distress but "the focus is not on piracy or maritime crime."

The U.S. believes the attack on the Spirit was carried out by pirates trying to loot the ship, rather than terrorists targeting its Western passengers. But the incident shows that pirates and terrorists share a willingness to use deadly force to achieve their aims. And since pirates make more money--the three big gangs of pirates suspected of working Somali waters now demand and often receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom, according to the Piracy Reporting Center's Choong--they are likely to go after bigger game. With their kidnapping revenues, pirates "can afford to buy themselves some pretty nice boats," says Choong, and hence extend the range of their seizures.

Sellathurai Mahalingam knows how brazen Somali pirates have become. Mahalingam is the captain of the MV Semlow, which was attacked in late June as it carried 850 tons of rice from the World Food Program (WFP) that was destined for hungry Somalis. Now back in his home country of Sri Lanka, Mahalingam, 58, related to TIME the saga of his 101-day ordeal as a captive of Somali pirates. It began, he says, with "the flash of 5 to 10 shots. Straightaway I knew it must be pirates." Before he could issue a distress signal, three fiber-glass speedboats with powerful outboard motors pulled alongside the Semlow. The pirates hooked a small metal ladder to the ship and scrambled aboard. "There were 15 to 20 men wearing shorts and T shirts," says Mahalingam. Those who boarded were barefoot but carrying pistols, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. The pirates rushed to the bridge, where in halting English they quizzed Mahalingam and his nine-man crew--eight Kenyans and a Tanzanian-- about their religion and told them they were being taken hostage. They told the captain his was the 20th ship they had hijacked this year.

The pirates stole $8,500 from Mahalingam's safe and forced the crew to set a course toward the central Somali town of Ceel Huur, where the Semlow dropped anchor within sight of land. "I told the pirates that we were carrying cargo that belonged to all Somalians," says Mahalingam. "I said, 'This is for your own people. Why are you doing this?'" Three days after the hijacking, the answer became clear. The pirates contacted the Semlow's owner, Inayet Kudrati, 54, director of the Motaku Shipping Agency based in Mombasa, and demanded that he pay a $500,000 ransom for the ship and crew. "I told them I didn't have that kind of money," says Kudrati, speaking to TIME two weeks ago.

In late September, three months into the siege, the bandits hijacked a second vessel, the Egypt-based Ibn Batuta. A few days later, after the pirates took Mahalingam and his chief engineer ashore for a day to visit the pirate bosses, the pirates gathered their weapons, piled into their speedboats and abandoned both the Semlow and the Ibn Batuta. The WFP says it didn't pay any ransom, but Kudrati told TIME that his shipping company handed over $135,000. "In the end we had to give in to them," he says.

That afternoon, says Mahalingam, a small boat flying a white flag approached. Somali negotiators had sent it to escort the Semlow to a Somali port where it could off-load the rice it was still carrying. Mahalingam radioed the Torgelow, a sister ship that was carrying tea and coffee for Somali traders as well as food and oil for the Semlow. But instead of hearing the captain's voice on the radio, Mahalingam heard a familiar Somali accent. The pirates had their next catch.

Officials fear a terrorist cell could hire a gang of pirates to attack an oil tanker or a container ship
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Old November 20th, 2005, 04:46 PM   #53
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Somali gunmen free Greek oil after a month in captivity

NAIROBI, Nov 19 (AFP) - Somali gunmen have released a Greek oil tanker and its crew, who were hijacked nearly a month ago in the pirate-infested Horn of Africa nation's waters, officials said Saturday.

The pirates seized the Maltese-flagged San Carlos and its 24-member crew on October 20 as it made its way to South Africa. The ship was released Saturday and resumed its course to its destination, said Andrew Mwangura of the Seafarers' Association Programme.

"Reports reaching here from Somalia indicate that the Somali gunmen have released the MT San Carlos," Mwangura said.

It was not clear under what circumstances the vessel was released, but Mwangura said compensation must have been paid to secure its freedom.

Earlier this month, a luxury ship narrowly escaped piracy when gunmen opened fire at the vessel which sped off into the high seas, evading would-be hijackers aboard speedboats.

Piracy has become epidemic in the unpatrolled waters off the coast of Somalia, where at least 23 hijackings and attempted seizures have been recorded since mid-March, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Somalia has had no functioning central administration for the past 14 years and last month the prime minister of the country's fledgling and largely powerless transitional government appealed for help from neighboring countries to patrol its waters.
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Old November 21st, 2005, 03:05 PM   #54
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Dire new piracy warnings issued for Somali coast after spate of attacks

NAIROBI, Nov 21 (AFP) - The United States and international maritime authorities have boosted already dire piracy warnings for vessels off the coast of lawless Somalia following a huge surge in attempted hijackings.

In a new alert, the US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) said ships in the region should stay at least 200 nautical miles (230 miles, 370 kilometers) from the coast, extending by 150 nautical miles a previously advised no-go zone.

"Due to continuing conditions of armed conflict and lawlessness in Somalia and waters off its coast, mariners are advised to avoid the port of Mogadishu and to remain at least 200 nautical miles distant from the Somali coast," it said.

ONI began broadcasting the alert over open commercial shipping radio channels on Friday following a similar warning issued earlier in the week by the International Maritime Board (IMB).

On Tuesday, the IMB reported that Somali pirates had hijacked or attempted to board at least 32 vessels off the coast since March in increasingly brazen and violent attacks.

The agency also called for international naval vessels in the area to come to the aid of ships threatened in and around Somali waters, echoing appeals made by the country's largely powerless transitional government.

The new warnings followed an attack on a cruise ship -- the first to target a non-merchant vessel -- earlier this month after which the London-based National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers called the waters off Somalia to be declared a war zone.

In addition to extending the perimeter of waters to be avoided, the US alert said all ships even remotely in the vicinity of the Somali coast should step up "anti-piracy precautions and maintain a heightened state of vigilance."

It noted that as well as opening fire on vessels to intimidate their crews into stopping, pirates were reported to be using false distress calls to lure ships close to the coast.

"Therefore, caution should be taken when responding to distress calls keeping in mind it may be a tactic to lure a vessel into a trap," it said.
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Old November 23rd, 2005, 10:18 PM   #55
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Damn, the waters of Somalia seem pretty dangerous.
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Old November 23rd, 2005, 11:46 PM   #56
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US Warns Sailors On Piracy Off Coasts Of Somalia, Yemen
23 November 2005

NAIROBI (AP)--Boats and ships near Somalia and Yemen should travel in convoys and maintain good radio communications at all times because of the threat of pirate attacks, a U.S. travel advisory warned Wednesday.

Sailors should avoid the Somali port of Mogadishu and remain at least 200 nautical miles (230 miles) off the Horn of Africa nation to avoid pirate attacks, armed robberies and kidnappings for ransom, according to a travel advisory released by the U.S. Embassy in Kenya.

Pirates have attacked vessels sailing near Yemen and Somalia's 3,000-kilometer (1,880-mile) coastline, Africa's longest. The two countries lie close to important shipping route connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean, where valuable cargo and carriers must pass.

The problem was reported globally after two boatloads of pirates attacked a luxury cruise liner carrying mostly American passengers on Nov. 5. The Seabourn Spirit sped away and no passengers were injured, but one of the 161-person crew was wounded by shrapnel in the raid, which occurred about 100 miles off Somalia.

"Americans considering seaborne travel near the Horn of Africa or in the southern Red Sea should exercise extreme caution," according to the travel advisory. "At least three flagged vessels were hijacked in October 2005 off the coast of Somalia."

Somalia has had no effective government since opposition leaders ousted a dictatorship in 1991 and then turned on each other, carving the nation of 8.2 million into a patchwork of warlord fiefdoms.

The end of both colonial controls and the cold war has reduced naval presence and capability in regions where piracy has historically flourished, leading to escalating incidents of high-sea banditry.
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Old November 26th, 2005, 06:28 AM   #57
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Somali government signs deal with US firm to battle pirates

NAIROBI, Nov 25 (AFP) - Lawless Somalia's largely powerless transitional government on Friday signed a multi-million-dollar deal with a US maritime security firm to fight rampant piracy in the waters off its unpatrolled coast.

Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, who has in the past appealed for foreign navies to send gunboats to battle the pirates signed the agreement with the New York-based Topcat Marine Security Inc. at a ceremony in the Kenyan capital.

"This agreement will defend Somalia's territorial waters, defeat the pirates and put an end to the illegal fishing and poaching of our precious natural marine resources," Gedi told reporters.

"With this maritime program in place, we are confident that that Somalia's territorial waters will again be safe for international shipping, legalised fishing to the benefit of the people of Somalia," he said.

Under the terms of the 55-million dollar (47-million euro) first phase of the two-year contract, TopCat will train Somali coast guards and special forces to monitor the anarchic nation's 3,700-kilometer (2,300-mile) coast.

It will also help create five coastal security bases, provide Somali authorities with advanced communications equipment, high-speed patrol boats, ground vehicles and helicopters, officials said.

TopCat security chief Peter Casini said the speedboats to be provided by the firm are some of the fastest in the world and are "the worst nightmare for pirates and those formenting terror will have no place to run or hide."

His company provides training and equipment to maritime and port authorities around the world and has worked with international security services to develop its patrol craft that can respond to terrorist threats and attacks.

Gedi, whose impoverished fledgling government has been hamstrung by internal disputes, said the money for the contract would come from foreign donors but declined to say which countries would provide the funding.

The deal was signed amid a huge surge in violent hijackings and attempted boardings of vessels by increasingly brazen Somali pirates that has sparked dire new maritime warnings for commercial shipping.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has reported 32 such incidents off the Somali coast since mid-March, including the hijackings of two UN food aid vessels and an attack on a US-owned cruise ship.

It has told ships to stay at least 200 nautical miles (230 miles, 370 kilometers) from the coast, a warning repeated last week by the US States Department and Office of Naval Intelligence.

Somalia's coast has been unpatrolled since the 1991 ouster of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre, which plunged the nation into anarchy with no functioning central government.

Gedi's government, created last year in Kenya, is the latest of some one dozen attempts to restore stability to the country, which western intelligence agencies has become a hub for extremists.
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Old December 3rd, 2005, 05:07 AM   #58
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Somali pirates release Kenyan ship, 10 crew

NAIROBI, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Somali pirates have released a Kenyan-owned freighter hijacked last month after the intervention of local leaders, maritime official said here Wednesday.

The pirates released MV Torgelow, hijacked on October 18 in Harardheere, 300 km south of the Somali capital Mogadishu, its nine Kenyan crew and Sri Lankan captain late Tuesday, said Andrew Mwangura, program coordinator of the Mombasa-based Seafarers' Assistance Program.

"It is believed that Somali merchants may have paid an unknown amount of money as ransom. The crew are in good shape," Mwangura said in a statement issued from Mombasa.

He said the St Vincent and the Grenadines-registered Torgelow is now heading to the Somali port of El-Maan, some 35 km north of Mogadishu to unload its 850 tons of cargo.

MV Torgelow was hijacked while on her way to deliver supplies to another ship that had been released by pirates, the MV Semlow, which had reported mechanical problems.

The vessel is the third ship owned by the Mombasa-based Motaku Shipping Agency which has been hijacked by Somali pirates this year.

Three Taiwanese fishing ships, with 48 sailors aboard, are also still held by gunmen who seized them more than three months ago off the southeastern port of Kismayo, about 500 km from Mogadishu, said Mwangura.

He said the crew are expected late Wednesday at the makeshift port of El-Maan where they will be able to contact their families.

"They are expected to call El-Maan port this evening. Plans are under way to link the crew members with their loved ones back home on telephone line as soon as they arrive at the make shift port of El-Maan," said Mwangura.

The Somali coastline has seen an increase of piracy in recent months, affecting both commercial and humanitarian ships sailing near the Horn of Africa nation that has been lacking an effective government for the last 14 years.

Last week, the interim Somali government and a US-based maritime security firm signed a 55-million dollar anti-piracy deal aimed at ending increased piracy along the coastline.

Kenyan marine officials fear the International Maritime Board ( IMB)'s orders for ships to keep off at least 200 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia would increase the cost of imports to the East African nation.

The IMB said at least 32 hijackings and attempted seizures have been recorded off the Somali coastline since mid-March.
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Old December 5th, 2005, 05:18 PM   #59
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WFP re-opens land route to Somalia after pirates thwart sea deliveries

NAIROBI, Dec 5 (AFP) - The World Food Programme (WFP) said Monday it had re-opened a land route to deliver vital humanitarian aid to lawless Somalia after being forced to cancel martime deliveries by a surge in piracy.

For the first time in four years, a convoy of trucks carrying food supplies to displaced Somalis arrived in the anarchic nation by road from the port of Mombasa in neighboring Kenya on Sunday, the United Nations agency said in a statement.

"This is a great achievement, but sadly it was forced on us by the pirates who have attacked our chartered ships and other vessels this year," said WFP's country representative for Somalia, Zlatan Milisic.

Fourteen trucks carrying 500 tonnes of food arrived in Wajid town in Bakol region on Sunday after an arduous 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) drive from Mombasa and through 25 militia checkpoints in Somalia, WFP said.

The WFP cancelled maritime deliveries of much-needed assistance to Somalia after two chartered vessels carrying food aid were hijacked by Somali gunmen in June and August amid a surge in attacks by pirates.

"It is 25- to 30-percent cheaper to bring our food aid in by sea and boats can carry much more, but we have had to resort to this land route because shipowners feel it is too risky to sail to the south," Milisic said.

Last month, WFP said rising piracy had choked deliveries of aid, putting at great risk more than half a million people facing acute food shortages in the country's southern regions.

Sunday's delivery marked the first time WFP has moved food aid overland since February 2001 and comes as the humanitarian situation in southern Somalia is deteriorating due to drought and insecurity, it said.

"It couldn't happen at a worse time," Milisic said. "If the current rains in the south fail and there are severe food shortages, WFP must rapidly increase deliveries to the south, and that will be very difficult."

Of about a million Somalis in need of food, about 640,000 are found in the southern region, which is beset by high morbidity and malnutrition rates, chronic food insecurity, crop failure, insecurity and flooding.

Somalia, a nation of up to 10 million people, has been without a functioning government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre plunged the Horn of Africa country into anarchy and violence.

Pirates taking advantage of the unpatrolled coast, have attacked 32 vessels in and around Somali waters since mid-March, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
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Old December 7th, 2005, 01:22 AM   #60
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New ship feared hijacked in pirate-infested Somali waters

NAIROBI, Dec 6 (AFP) - An unidentified merchant vessel has been reported hijacked by gunmen in the pirate-infested waters off Somalia in what is feared to be the latest in a surge of attacks on commericial shipping there, a maritime official said Tuesday.

If confirmed, the hijacking would bring to at least five the number of ships in the same area currently in the hands of pirates and would be the 33rd attack on ships in and around Somali waters since mid-March.

Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme (SAP) said his organization had been informed that a ship of unknown ownership and registry was seized early Tuesday.

"We were called by traders who frequent the Mogadishu-Mombasa route and informed that a new merchant ship has been hijacked off northeastern Somalia," Mwangura told AFP from the Kenyan port city of Mombasa.

He said the reports indicated the vessel was taken near the Somali town of Haradere, the base of pirates blamed for the spate of attacks that have prompted dire warnings to avoid the coast and calls for foreign intervention.

Until Tuesday, the International Maritime Board (IMB) had recorded 32 such incidents in the area since March 15, including a November 5 attack on a US-owned luxury ocean liner and two UN-chartered freighters carrying food aid.

In the past two weeks, Somali pirates have freed a hijacked Kenyan-owned cargo ship, the MV Torgelow, and its 10-man crew and Ukrainian vessel, the MV Panagia, and its crew of 22, both of which were seized in October.

Before Tuesday's reported incident, Somali pirates continued to hold at least four hijacked vessels, including the Thai-owned MV Laemthong Glory, and its unknown number of crew and three Taiwanese fishing boats with 48 sailors.

The spate of attacks has prompted dire warnings for mariners to stay away at least 200 nautical miles (230 miles, 370 kilometers) from the coast and sparked calls for Somalia's unpatrolled waters to be declared a war zone.

Somalia has had no functioning central administration since the 1991 ouster of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre and pirates have increasingly taken advantage of the lack of authority to ply the 3,700 kilometer (2,300 mile) coast.

The country's fledgling and largely powerless transitional government, which in October appealed for foreign navies to intervene, last month signed a deal with a US maritime security firm to help fight the pirates.
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