Sea Transportation: The Yachts Strike Back

March 7, 2011: Despite the difficulty of collecting ransoms from yachts (and those captured on them), Somali pirates have continued to go after them. As a result, most yachts have heeded warnings and begun avoiding the eastern Indian Ocean (the area between Africa and India). But some yachts have ventured into these waters any way, often with armed guards. In one recent incident, a yacht was accompanied by a security vessel staffed with six armed men. Somali pirates attacked the yacht at night, and some got on board. The two people on the yacht locked themselves in a safe room, and the security vessel quickly reached the yacht, exchanged fire with the pirates, who promptly fled. There were no injuries, although the yacht suffered some damage from the gunfire.

The security vessel was supplied by Naval Guards, one of the several firms now supplying armed escort services for ships travelling through pirate infested waters. Naval Guards operates out of Djibouti (the northern neighbor of Somalia), and has five patrol boats, ranging in size from 21-42 meters (54-128 feet) in length. These boats carry from six to fifteen armed men. The sea going boats escort ships, and provide additional eyes to spot approaching pirates (who like to attack at night in speedboats.) The Yemeni Navy has also put some of its patrol boats into service providing escorts for ships passing through Yemeni waters. Daily fees for these escorts can be up to $10,000 or more (depending on the size of the escort and how far out at sea the escort has to meet up with the ship it will protect.) So far, no ship escorted by these escort services has been taken.

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