The saga of the Somali pirates continues apace. According to an article over the weekend in the Independent Online of South Africa, there is a large ship directing and co-ordinating smaller vessels in the attacks on shipping, and holding the captured crews for ransom:
|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 on Friday.|
|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 failed state’s coastline, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said.|
|“Insecurity off the Somali coast has escalated sharply – it is very worrying,” Andrew Mwangura, programme co-ordinator at the Kenyan Seafarers’ Association, told Reuters. He said nine ships, including two Arabian dhows, had been seized.|
|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 US-owned Spirit by gunmen in two small speedboats, but the ship’s captain managed to change course and speed away.|
|At the centre of the wave of recent attacks is a mysterious, so-called 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,” 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.”|
|After two years of relative calm, the IMB said 32 pirate attacks had been recorded since mid-March, including raids on ships carrying supplies for the UN World Food Programme.|
|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.|
The attack on the American cruise ship brought into our awareness something that might otherwise have gone unnoticed by most Americans — the extent of Indian Ocean piracy:
- Thirty-two attacks since March.
- Five attacks in the last week.
- Seven vessels held captive.
- A hundred crew members held for ransom.
And this is the 21st century, not the 18th.
This must not be a jihad operation, since “Arabian dhows” (and presumably Muslims) are among the victims. Or are these dhows insufficiently Muslim? Apostates, perhaps…?
It seems that the traditional Arab entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Somalia. A lucrative harvest of fruit ripe for the picking, just off the coast, and no annoying functioning government to interfere.
The shipping companies of the world are appealing to the UN to do its job and take care of the problem. We’ll see.
There was no UN to appeal to back when the Barbary pirates were plying their trade in the Mediterranean, no international bodies staffed with expert bureaucrats ready to leap to the assistance of the victims of piracy.
Back then, the world had to make do with the U.S. Marines.