With sophisticated radars, Somali pirates strike at will

November 20th, 2008 - 7:55 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 20 (IANS) Somali pirates, who have virtually held the whole world to ransom, are highly skilled and techno-savvy, having employed radars to monitor the movement of merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, an official here said Thursday.The pirates have an eye in the ocean in the form of a radar on a “mother vessel” which gives them the ability to strike at will to mark a whopping 75 percent increase from last year in piracy incidents in the Gulf of Aden, which controls access to the Suez Canal.

“The pirate ‘mother vessel’ is a biggish fishing trawler and is capable of carrying a load of 200-300 tonnes. It is a highly sophisticated ship with radar and communication equipment. They are thus able to monitor sea traffic,” a senior official of the Indian Navy said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In fact, the Somali pirates are so ingenious that they have started operating 500 nautical miles off the coast in the high seas and regularly improvise their attack tactics. This is evident from the nine successful hijackings by pirates in the last 12 days.

“Most of these Somali pirates are trained militia from the hinterland. They are highly skilled as to board a high speed merchant vessel requires a lot of skill,” the official said.

Once the pirates board the ship they force the crew to take the ship to one of the two ports - Eyl and Hobyo - in the territorial waters of Somalia.

“Once the ship enters the harbour, 25-30 pirates come on board the ship. There are forces in the vicinity ready to provide logistics and berthing facilities to the hijacked ships,” the official said.

The other issue concerning the Indian Navy is the paradigm change in the piracy situation in the Gulf of Aden and the Straits of Malacca, once dreaded as the ‘piracy capital’ of the international sea-lanes.

“Somalia has attained different dimension. Pilfering cargo has become immaterial and the pirates are now hijacking only for ransom. Somali warlords are also involved. This has thrown up several complexities. Even the Gulf of Oman and parts of Arabian Sea is badly affected,” the official said.

Piracy in and around the Malacca Straits has declined over the past few years in tandem with the economic recovery of its littoral states.

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