Somali pirates' attacks increase

Pirates in Somalia have demanded 24 million Euros to release a Ukrainian
freighter containing tanks and grenade launchers that was seized last
Thursday as it neared the Kenyan port of Mombasa. The crew of 21 was also
taken hostage, and three of its members are Russian, which led to Moscow
sending a warship to the area. It has also been revealed that the pirates
are currently holding about twelve large vessels, but released a Japanese
vessel after a ransom of $2 million was paid. Pirates are also holding 19 sailors from a Greek tanker.

Last month, the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre in
Malaysia issued a red alert to ships “to be extra vigilant” while sailing
through the Gulf of Aden following increased hijackings. The bureau
specifically mentioned the Eastern and Northeastern coasts in Somali as the
“high risk areas for attacks and hijacking,” and advised vessels not making
scheduled calls to ports in Somalia to keep “as far away as possible from
the Somali coast”.

“They should ideally sail more than 250 nautical miles until a more
permanent and encouraging sign is seen. Mariners are advised to report any
suspicious boats to the centre,” read the warning from the bureau’s website.
The bureau alert came only 48 hours after four ships had been attacked and
hijacked and crews robbed and captured by the armed Somali pirates. The
pirates, warned the bureau, fired automatic weapons and Rocket Propelled
Grenades (RPG) in attempts to board and hijack vessels.

In the November issue of YM we profile the dramatic rescue of a French cruising couple who were taken hostage in the same area.