Archive for the ‘ransom’ Category

Somali pirates target four ships in 24 hours

December 17, 2008

Somali pirates seized three ships and were narrowly thwarted from taking a fourth in one of the worst 24 hours of hijacking in the Gulf of Aden.

By Mike Pflanz
Telegraph (UK)
Two helicopters and a warship were deployed to help crew members of a Chinese cargo vessel who had barricaded themselves into their sleeping quarters after being boarded by nine heavily armed pirates.

The pirates fled after they were fired on from the helicopters, sent by a multinational naval force patrolling off Somalia. The crew of 30 on the Zenhua 4 were released unharmed.

“They were very fortunate, once the ship is boarded, it is very rare for them to fail to hijack it,” said Noel Choong, head of the piracy reporting centre at the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur.

Earlier, an Indonesian tugboat, a Turkish cargo ship and a yacht were all hijacked in what was one of the most successful 24 hours for Somalia’s pirates.

The attacks came the day after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution allowing foreign forces, including the British military, to pursue pirates on to Somali soil for the first time and use “all necessary measures that are appropriate in Somalia”.

File photo shows the French naval ship Commandant Bouan off ... 
File photo shows the French naval ship Commandant Bouan off the coast of Somalia during a mission. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution for the first time authorizing international land operations against audacious, armed pirates sheltering in Somalia.(AFP/Marine Nationale/Ho/File/Aurelie Fava)

This raises the possibility that US soldiers could return to Somalia for the first time since their disastrous pull-out following the deadly Black Hawk Down debacle, when 18 American soldiers died in Mogadishu.

The latest raids push the number of attempted hijackings in the waters between Somalia and Yemen to 124 this year.


Somali Pirates Grab 3 More Ships, Even As UN OKs Shore Raids

December 17, 2008

Somali pirates seized four ships in the Gulf of Aden on the same day the United Nations Security Council authorized countries to pursue the gunmen on land.

A Kenyan maritime group said pirates hijacked an Indonesian tugboat, a Turkish cargo ship, a Chinese fishing vessel and a yacht on Tuesday, all in one the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

FILE---Dutch cargo ships the MV Stolt Innovation, in the foreground, ...

Rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia this year has earned gunmen millions of dollars in ransom, hiked shipping insurance costs and sent foreign navies rushing to patrol shipping lanes off the Horn of Africa nation.

The seizures have prompted some of the world’s biggest shipping firms to switch routes from the Suez Canal and send cargo vessels around southern Africa instead — which could push up the cost of commodities and manufactured goods.

While warships from several nations are patrolling the seas off Somalia and escorting ships, analysts say the problem must be tackled on land as well for any lasting solution.

The resolution passed by the 15-nation Security Council on Tuesday said states “may undertake all necessary measures in Somali, including in its airspace” to stop the pirates.

Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan-based East African Seafarers Assistance program said on Wednesday that Chinese fishing vessel Zhenhua-4 with 30 Chinese crew and a yacht with two on board had been seized off Yemen a day earlier.

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China Warships Depart on Anti-Piracy Mission Near Somalia

December 17, 2008

Three Chinese warships departed their homeland today a seemingly minor and some say symbolic anti-piracy mission near Somalia.

But the “out of area” deployment of Naval Warships from China is really the first such adventure in hundreds of years.

China’s Naval Task Force Departs For Historic Near Africa Mission; International Hopes

The story below was prepared before the ships departed China:


In what would be the first active deployment of its warships beyond the Pacific, China appears set to send naval vessels to help in the fight against hijackers in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.

A vice foreign minister and a leading naval strategist were quoted in Chinese state media on Wednesday as saying that Beijing is close to mounting a naval mission in the gulf.

By Mark McDonald
The New York Times

China Launching First Long-Range Naval Mission Since 15th Century 

China Says Navy Force to Fight Somali Pirates

Type 052B Guangzhou in Leningrad.jpg
China has many warships well suited to anti-piracy patrol

“China is seriously considering sending naval ships to the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast for escorting operations in the near future,” said the Foreign Ministry official, He Yafei, quoted by Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency. His remarks came at a ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

Li Jie, a military strategist and naval expert, told the state-run China Daily that cooperating with a multinational force operating against East African pirates would be a “very good opportunity” for the Chinese Navy.

“Apart from fighting pirates,” he said, “another key goal is to register the presence of the Chinese Navy.”

The newspaper earlier this month said Maj. Gen. Jin Yinan, a military planner at the National Defense University, had conceived the Gulf of Aden plan. The paper quoted General Jin as saying that “the Chinese Navy should send naval vessels to the Gulf of Aden to carry out anti-piracy duties.”

“If one day the Chinese Navy sends ships to deal with pirates,” he said, “nobody should be shocked.”

Traditionally concerned with coastal defense, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been undergoing a wide and rapid modernization program, especially in the bolstering of its submarine fleet. A long-range goal of the Chinese expansion has been the development of a blue-water navy capable of extended tours.


China Conducts Massive Anti-Piracy Drill; May Send Ships Near Somalia

Anti-Piracy: Where’s China’s Navy?

UN Approves Pursuit of Pirates Over Land, Into Somalia

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China Conducts Massive Anti-Piracy Drill; May Send Ships Near Somalia

December 14, 2008

Thousands of Chinse military personnel have been participating in a “massive” People’s Liberation Army (Navy) and Air Force anti-pracy training exercise in the South China Sea.

China has been widely criticized for not contributing any military forces to anti-pirate patrols in the vicinity of the Gulf of Aden where Somali and Yemeni pirates are taking ships hostage and ransoming them back to owners for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

China worries about interruptions of its economically vital shipping.  World-wide, the piracy has caused insurance prices to soar for the shipping companies — costs passed on to consumers on a global scale.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union(EU), India,  Russia  and others have ships engaged in anti-piracy missions in and around the Gulf of Aden.

See a video from Reuters on China’s anti-piracy training:

Anti-Piracy: Where’s China’s Navy?

Indian Navy Captures 23 Somali, Yemeni Pirates


China: Debate Rages On Somali Anti-Piracy Mission

By Zhang Haizhou
China Daily

Chinese military strategists and international relations experts are debating whether China should dispatch its navy to the troubled waters off Somalia.

The debate was first kicked off by Major-General Jin Yinan of the National Defense University, when he told a radio station last week that “nobody should be shocked” if the Chinese government one day decides to send navy ships to deal with the pirates.

The general’s views came after two Chinese ships – a fishing vessel and a Hong Kong-flag ship with 25 crew aboard – were seized by Somali pirates in mid Nov.

Jin gave no sign that such a naval mission was under immediate consideration, but he said China’s growing influence has made it likely that the government might use its forces in security operations far from home.
“I believe the Chinese navy should send naval vessels to the Gulf of Aden to carry out anti-piracy duties,” he said. “If one day, the Chinese navy sends ships to deal with pirates, nobody should be shocked.”

“With China being a major world economy, it’s very difficult to say that security problems across the world have nothing to do with us,” Jin said.

Type 052B Guangzhou in Leningrad.jpg
China has many capable warships that could contribute to the anti-piracy mission of the international community.  Above: a Guangzhou class destroyer.

While the military strategist is urging an active deployment, other scholars think the government should be cautious before a decision is made.

The Chinese military vessels should go there “only within the UN framework,” said Pang Zhongying, a professor of international relations with Renmin University of China.

Since July, the UN has adopted three resolutions urging the international community to respond to the piracy problem off Somalia; the EU started an anti-piracy mission earlier this week in response to the UN resolution.

“Non-intervention is the principle of China’s foreign policy, which has not changed,” Pang said. However, China is trying to “play a more constructive and responsible role in international conflicts and other crises,” he said.

“China is now trying to balance its old principle and the new reality,” he added.

China has never dispatched any troops for combat missions overseas. The Chinese army personnel joining UN peacekeeping missions are engineering and medical staff, or police, apart from peacekeepers.

“Non-intervention is in the process of slow change,” Pang said, adding China is trying to cooperate with international organizations such as the UN and the African Union (AU) in solving regional and international conflicts, Pang said.

Pang added that he also had some concerns over the Chinese navy’s capability.

“I don’t think the Chinese navy has the capacity to counter unconventional threats far in the ocean,” he said, adding supplying and refueling in the Indian Ocean are key challenges.

However, some military strategists do not agree.

Professor Li Jie, a navy researcher, said the Chinese navy has proved that it is capable of such missions.

In 2002, two Chinese vessels spent four months on a global tour, the country’s first.

“Also, the UN resolutions mean that such deployment is legitimate,” Li said, noting that rampant piracy is a problem not only for other countries, but also for China.

“I think we should go there,” he added, acknowledging that command and communication will be challenges for such multi-national missions.

“But the mission can also be good training for the Chinese navy,” he said.

However, Professor Jin Canrong of Renmin University told China Daily: “I think we should not dispatch navy ships there unless we have to do so.”

Sending naval vessels to the waters off Somalia may raise some concerns and provide ammunition to “China threat” demagogues, he said.

Instead, joining a prospective UN peacekeeping force is a better choice.


From Forbes:

The U.S.-led Combined Task Force 150 has been patrolling the waters in question since 2002 and has expanded its mission beyond counterterrorism and counter-proliferation to combating piracy.

CTF 150 constitutes mainly the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group and, on a rotating basis, several ships from other, primarily European, countries. To protect its own shipping, Malaysia–as well as Russia and India–has sent military vessels to the region. NATO and the European Union, too, are seized of the problem and are deploying four ships to loiter in the Somalis’ area of operation next month.

Political will among major and regional powers, then, does not appear to be the issue. Rather, the real bugbears have been a lack of central coordination–in particular as to adherence to international law, optimal deployment of resources and rules of engagement.

In June, the United Nations passed a resolution making it an international duty of member states to fight piracy and allowing them to pursue Somali pirates into Somalia’s territorial waters–in effect denying the pirates legal maritime sanctuary. That theoretically solves the international law problem. But, with nations like India and Malaysia responding only episodically to emerging threats, sustaining a maritime presence large enough to deter or respond to an appreciable number of pirate attacks remains difficult. And even if all of the affected nations committed to standing patrols, their oversight of various sectors of the pirates’ operational space would have to be determined by a central command to maximize geographical coverage.

Differing national rules of engagement would have to be better harmonized and perhaps rethought. For example, a U.S. crew can act preemptively only once it determines pirates are “in the act” of piracy, yet they must back off once hostages have been taken for fear of imperiling them. It might therefore make sense to establish procedures whereby an American ship making initial contact with a pirate vessel can delegate interdiction responsibility to a vessel with more liberal engagement policies–say, a French one–or indeed to consider liberalizing rules of engagement.

Whatever the particular solutions to these essentially operational quandaries, the first step is diplomatic. The U.S., by default, has assumed primary responsibility for policing the waters off Somalia and its vicinity. Now it should call on all governments and private concerns with interests in the safety and security of those waters to meet and determine precisely how to achieve them.

Jonathan Stevenson is a professor of strategic studies at the U.S. Naval War College.Read it all:

Navy commander questions land attacks on pirates

December 13, 2008

Days before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to ask the United Nations to authorize “all necessary measures” against piracy from Somalia, a leader of the U.S. military, which would help carry out that policy, said in effect: Not so fast.

The commander of the U.S. Navy‘s 5th Fleet expressed doubt Friday about the wisdom of launching attacks against Somali pirates on land, as the draft U.N. resolution proposes. A Pentagon spokesman warned against the urge to grasp for a quick and easy military solution to a complex international problem.

U.S. Vice Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters that striking pirate camps in lawless Somalia could open a can of worms. It is difficult to identify pirates, and the potential for killing innocent civilians “cannot be overestimated,” Gortney said.

U.S. Vice Adm. William Gortney
U.S. Vice Adm. William Gortney commands the Navy’s 5th Fleet. AP Hasan Jamali

There is a huge risk to any U.S. forces involved, whether small commando units or larger operations. And U.S. commanders still have sour memories of the humiliating “Blackhawk Down” outcome of U.S. military intervention in Somalia more than a decade ago.

Concern about possible mistaken identity extends to operations at sea, too, since pirate ships are often indistinguishable from ragtag fishing vessels. The military is also worried about what would be done with captured pirates, who would try or imprison them.

“There are many that are seeking a simple military solution, or solely a military solution to address the piracy issue,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. “I think that we need to take a more comprehensive look a this, and while there may be a military component, this is an issue that has to be addressed more broadly.”

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Indian warship INS Tabar escorts the MV Jag Arnav ship to safety after rescuing it from pirates.

Above: On an anti-piracy patrol, Indian Navy warship escorts a merchant ship.  Photo: Indian Navy

Somali Pirates Free Greek Ship With 19 Crew

December 10, 2008

A Philippine official says Somali pirates have freed a Greek cargo ship with 19 crew members, mostly Filipinos, nearly three months after it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said Wednesday the MV Captain Stephanos, a Greek-owned and Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier seized on Sept. 21, was freed on Monday.

He says the 19 crew members, including 17 Filipinos, one Chinese and one Ukrainian, are in good health and the ship was sailing to Italy before proceeding to Greece.

Associated Press

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The French warship Nivose escorts a convoy of commercial ships ... 
The French warship Nivose escorts a convoy of commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden on November 25. Somali pirates have moved south to avoid  EU maritime patrols.(AFP/Eric Cabanis)

Nivose 1.jpg

Avoiding Pirate Threat, Cruise Line Evacuates Passengers

December 9, 2008

Hundreds of passengers on a round-the-world cruise will disembark before reaching waters off Somalia and fly to Dubai to avoid pirates, German cruise operator Hapag-Lloyd said Tuesday.

Associated Press

The company said the 150-meter (490-foot) MS Columbus and its crew will continue on through the Gulf of Aden. Passengers will rejoin the vessel in Oman for the remainder of a trip that began last month in Genoa, Italy.

MS Columbus visiting Cork Harbour in 2007

A company spokesman said passengers would be transferred to planes, but would not comment further.

Pirates off the Somali coast have recently started trying to take cruise vessels after a string of attack on cargo ships, including a Saudi oil tanker and a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and other weapons.

The British naval commander in charge of the European Union‘s anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia said Tuesday that the force may station armed guards on the most vulnerable cargo ships in high-risk areas.

British Vice-Admiral Philip Jones said the guards may be placed on some ships transporting food aid to Somalia.

The EU mission includes four ships and two maritime reconnaissance aircraft On Dec. 15 it will replace a four-vessel NATO flotilla that has been conducting anti-piracy patrols off the Somali coast.

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