“Garrrr … Thar Be Pirates”

By mid-December 2008 the year’s tally for pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia alone totalled 109, with 42 ships successfully hijacked, and 14 vessels (with 268 crew) still being held hostage. Included among these were a Saudi supertanker (Sirius Star) and a ship carrying ex-Soviet tanks (Faina).

Sirius Star, hijacked off Somalia
Sirius Star

The International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau monitors piracy globally, with a multi-national naval fleet stationed off Africa’s east coast to escort vessels; and yet the scourge continues. The most amazing part is that these heists are being executed by small groups of men in outboard motor boats armed with RPGs and machine guns.  And they netted an estimated $30 million or more last year for their troubles!

The hijacking of the Sirius Star, carrying a full 2-million bbl cargo of crude oil, took place 450 miles off the coast of Kenya. Pirates subsequently anchored the vessel off the Somali coast. Ransom for this vessel stands at $25 million. I’m pretty sure you could roll in style back on shore with that kind of loot.

In addition to 33 tanks (bound for Sudan) the Faina carried ammunition and rocket launchers. A blockade has kept the munitions from being offloaded, but retaking the ship runs the possibility of having the crew killed. An initial $20-million ransom for the vessel (stationed off the same stretch of coast near the port of Hobyo as the Sirius Star) has since been lowered to $8 million.

The IMB advises that ships’ Masters maintain strict 24-hr piracy watches and be especially wary of any approaching smaller craft, adding that “as far as possible, masters should not slow down or stop when fired upon by pirates.”

I’m still not sure what’s wrong with firing back, but aim to find out.

Not everyone’s a hater though; here’s a tribute clip:

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