The Russian Defense Ministry is currently working on the opportunity to provide battleships of the national navy for escorting vessels of other countries on a commercial basis. A source from the Russian Navy said that Russia had already received such requests from several countries and that a frigate of the nation’s Baltic Fleet had already escorted several foreign ships. The source did not specify the cost of such services, nor did it name the countries that placed such orders for the Russian Navy.
“The Command of the Russian Navy believes that the Somali pirates are not just a group of bandits – they are a well-organized criminal community. They use mass media and the internet to track down the actions that governments of foreign countries take and analyze the questions of their further activities,” Igor Dygalo, a top official of the Russian Navy told reporters.
European navies will launch a joint operation December 8 against the Somali pirates.
Three NATO battleships launched the Allied Provider mission October 24 off the Somali coast. The prime goal of the mission was to protect the humanitarian cargoes, which foreign countries send to 3.2 natives of Somali.
The Prime Minister of Somalia’s provisional government Nur Hassan Hussein acknowledged that the country was unable to cope with piracy without the assistance from other nations. The official also pointed out the reasons which triggered the unexampled prosperity of piracy in modern history: the ongoing civil war in the country, poverty and the weakness of the national law-enforcement agencies. The Somali prime minister urged foreign countries to struggle against piracy on land and sea.
A Ukrainian ship, the Faina, carrying tanks and heavy weaponry was seized by Somali pirates on September 25. The pirates have demanded an $8-million ransom in exchange for the release of the Ukrainian-Russian crew.
The Faina's Russian captain died of a heart attack after the vessel was seized. The pirates holding the ship have threatened to kill the hostages if a military operation is launched against them. Food and water supplies on board the vessel, which has been held for seven weeks, are reportedly running critically low.
NATO and the EU have recently announced plans to increase their naval presence in the Gulf of Aden. About 20,000 vessels pass through the region annually, RIA Novosti reports.
In early June, the UN Security Council passed a resolution permitting countries to enter Somalia's territorial waters to combat "acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea."
Somali pirates have made about 90 attacks against foreign vessels since the beginning of the year. The largest attack took place Saturday, when pirates seized Saudi supertanker Sirius Star carrying two million barrels of oil on board. The pirates reportedly demand $25 million in ransom for the release of the Saudi tanker.
There is quite a list of security agencies that offer their services to defend vessels against the attacks of Somali pirates. Prices on the market depend on the qualification and experience of security guards.
Blackwater, a US security contractor, intends to send its McArthur to Somali coast at the end of the year. The ship is capable of carrying helicopters on board. McArthur will most likely become a floating base to conduct anti-piracy patrolling along the coast of Somali. Blackwater’s services are a lot more expensive than those of smaller firms. Prices fluctuate from 8,000 pounds sterling for three days and 12,000 pounds for five days in case a client wants his vessel to be accompanied by three unarmed security guards. Prices double if a client orders armed escorting.
Pirates have been around as long as people have used the oceans as trade routes. The earliest documented instances of piracy are the exploits of the Sea Peoples who threatened the Aegean and Mediterranean in the 13th century BC. In Classical Antiquity, the Tyrrhenians and Thracians were known as pirates. The island of Lemnos long resisted Greek influence and remained a haven for Thracian pirates. During their voyages the Phoenicians seem to have sometimes resorted to piracy, and specialized in kidnapping boys and girls to be sold as slaves. By the 1st century BC, there were pirate states along the Anatolian coast, threatening the commerce of the Roman Empire
Seaborne piracy against transport vessels remains a significant issue (with estimated worldwide losses of US $13 to $16 billion per year), particularly in the waters between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, off the Somali coast, and also in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore, which are used by over 50,000 commercial ships a year. A recent surge in piracy off the Somali coast spurred a multi-national effort led by the United States to patrol the waters near the Horn of Africa to combat piracy. While boats off the coasts of North Africa, Iran and the Mediterranean Sea are still assailed by pirates, the Royal Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard have nearly eradicated piracy in U.S. waters and in the Caribbean Sea.
Modern pirates favor small boats and taking advantage of the small number of crew members on modern cargo vessels. They also use large vessels to supply the smaller attack/boarding vessels. Modern pirates can be successful because a large amount of international commerce occurs via shipping. Major shipping routes take cargo ships through narrow bodies of water (such as the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Malacca) making them vulnerable to be overtaken and boarded by small motorboats. Other active areas include the South China Sea and the Niger Delta. As usage increases, many of these ships have to lower cruising speeds to allow for navigation and traffic control, making them prime targets for piracy. Small ships are also capable of disguising themselves as fishing vessels or cargo vessels when not carrying out piracy in order to avoid or deceive inspectors.
Also, pirates often operate in regions of developing or struggling countries with smaller navies and large trade routes. Pirates sometimes evade capture by sailing into waters controlled by their pursuer's enemies. With the end of the Cold War, navies have decreased size and patrol, and trade has increased, making organized piracy far easier. Modern pirates are sometimes linked with organized-crime syndicates, but often are parts of small individual groups. Pirate attack crews may consist of 4 to 10 sailors for going after a ship's safe (raiding) or up to 70 (depending entirely on the ships and the ships crew size) if the plan is to seize the whole vessel.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) maintains statistics regarding pirate attacks dating back to 1995. Their records indicate hostage-taking overwhelmingly dominates the types of violence against seafarers. For example in 2006, there were 239 attacks, 77 crew members were kidnapped and 188 taken hostage but only 15 of the pirate attacks resulted in murder. In 2007 the attacks rose by 10% to 263 attacks. There was a 35% increase on reported attacks involving guns. Crew members that were injured numbered 64 compared to just 17 in 2006. That number does not include hostages/kidnapping where they were not injured.
In some cases, modern pirates are not interested in the cargo and are mainly interested in taking the personal belongings of the crew and the contents of the ship's safe, which might contain large amounts of cash needed for payroll and port fees. In other cases, the pirates force the crew off the ship and then sail it to a port to be repainted and given a new identity through false papers often purchased from corrupt or complicit officials.
Modern piracy can also take place in conditions of political unrest. For example, following the US withdrawal from Vietnam, Thai piracy was aimed at the many Vietnamese who took to boats to escape. Further, following the disintegration of the government of Somalia, warlords in the region have attacked ships delivering UN food aid.
Environmental action groups such as Sea Shepherd have been accused of engaging in piracy and terrorism when they sink ships with mines, scuttle them, or ram them and throw butyric acid on their crews; although they carry firearms, they are not known to have fired them during attacks.
The attack against the U.S. cruise ship the Seabourn Spirit offshore of Somalia in November 2005 is an example of the sophisticated pirates mariners face. The pirates carried out their attack more than 100 miles (160 km) offshore with speedboats launched from a larger mother ship. The attackers were armed with automatic firearms and an RPG.
Many nations forbid ships to enter their territorial waters or ports if the crew of the ships are armed in an effort to restrict possible piracy. Shipping companies sometimes hire private security guards.