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Sea Transportation: Somali Pirates Out of Control

November 17, 2005: Somalia, and the piracy off its coast, is becoming a security problem that cannot be ignored. Five ships have been attacked in the last two weeks. As many as three pirate gangs have been operating off the coast, and have attacked ships as far as 400 kilometers out to sea. So far this year, over 30 ships have been attacked. Unlike pirates in other parts of the world, who just rob the crew and escape with whatever they can carry, the Somali pirates capture ships and hold them for ransom. Currently, six ships are being held. Because several attacks, by speed boats full of gunmen, have taken place several hundred kilometers from shore, it is believed that at least one pirate gang has a larger ship, that speed boats are launched from. A larger ship, believed to be the pirate vessel, was spotted drifting off the coast three times over the Summer.

It’s also believed that the pirates have maritime radios, so that they can listen in to ships in the area, and plan attacks based on where these ships are expected to be. Kenya, whose economy depends on cargo vessels moving north, past Somalia, is calling for an international task force to patrol the Somali coast, and clear out the pirates. The U.S., Germany and France already have warships north of Somalia, guarding the Djibouti coast and the Gulf of Aden. So far, no nation has offered to go after the Somali pirates. Meanwhile, merchant shipping has been warned to stay at least 400 kilometers from the Somali coast. But foreign fishing ships are reluctant to give up working the waters off Somali. So the pirates still have a reason to prowl the coast.