Sea Transportation: U.S. and North Korean Sailors Attack Somali Pirates


p> November 1, 2007: Sometimes North Korea and the United States work together, at least when it comes to pirates. Real "steal the ship and kill the crew" pirates. On October 30th, a North Koreas merchant ship, the Dai Hong Dan, was boarded by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The North Koreans managed to get off a distress message. The ship was in international waters, 108 kilometers off the coast, unloading sugar to smaller boats. This offshore unloading arrangement was supposed to protect the North Koreans from pirates. The pirates were actually armed guards hired to protect the crew from real pirates during this unloading operation.

An American destroyer, the USS James E. Williams, was nearby, and rushed to the scene. When the U.S. warship got there, they demanded that the pirates surrender. Meanwhile, on the ship, part of the North Korean crew had managed to barricade themselves in the engine room, where they controlled the speed and direction the ship could move in. But the seven pirates had taken control of the bridge, and refused to surrender. Seeing this, most of the 43 man North Korean crew stormed the bridge, killing two of the seven pirates. Three crew members were badly wounded, and the destroyer captain, using a Korean-American sailor as a translator, offered to treat them. The North Korean captain agreed, and the destroyers helicopter was sent to get the wounded men. American sailors came aboard, applied first aid, and the three wounded North Koreans were transferred to the destroyer for treatment.

Meanwhile, a U.S. destroyer is shadowing another merchant ship, the Golden Nori (carrying a flammable cargo) that was captured by pirates on the 28th. The Somali government asked the U.S. warships to enter Somali waters and capture the pirates. But an attack on the ship is dicey, because of the benzene cargo. Perhaps U.S. Navy SEALS are being brought in. In any event, the reaction to the two latest pirate attacks off the Somali coast will give the pirates something to consider. Of late, the pirates have become so bold that they have been using a larger mother ship, and going outside Somali territory waters looking for prey. That will probably halt if foreign warships are allowed to operate close to the Somali coast.

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