The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (Constabulary) is participating in a new German-Dutch investigation team set up to combat piracy in Somali waters. The team will focus primarily on identifying the organisers, financiers and negotiators involved in hijacking merchant shipping.
The Dutch National Public Prosecutor’s Office made the announcement of the team’s establishment on November 17.
The Dutch ministry of defence said the investigation team will try to discover where the millions of dollars of ransom money goes to in an effort to track down the broader piracy network.
The Joint Investigation Team is an initiative of the Dutch National Public Prosecutor’s Office and the German Public Prosecutor’s Office in Osnabrück, Germany. In addition, the National Criminal Investigation Service, the State Investigation Bureau of Lower Saxony, the Federal Investigation Bureau in Berlin, Eurojust and Europol are also taking part.
Last week, representatives from the Dutch National Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Osnabrück and Eurojust signed the cooperation agreement. The joint investigation team has been set up provisionally for one year.
Despite international efforts, piracy continues to be a major problem in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. In recent days pirates have unsuccessfully attack a couple of ships in the Indian Ocean. On Monday morning the container ship MSC Jeanne was attacked by six pirates in two skiffs, whilst 200 nautical miles east of Mombassa, Kenya.
After the ship was fired on, the master raised the alarm, took evasive manoeuvres and fired flares towards the skiffs, causing them to abort the attack.
On Sunday the bulk carrier Pioneer Pacific was attacked by eight pirates in two speedboats whilst underway in the Gulf of Aden, off Yemen. The crew fired flares at the speedboats and an onboard security team fired at the pirates, causing them to break off the attack.
On November 18, armed men boarded an oil supply vessel contracted by U.S. energy company Chevron off the Nigerian coast in the second attack by gunmen on Chevron contracted vessels this month.
“The MV Endeavour was off the coast, serving Chevron’s Agbami field, when gunmen boarded it in the very early hours,” one security source told Reuters. Two other sources close to the incident confirmed the details.
Experts say recent attacks on ships in the Gulf of Guinea threaten the region’s position as an emerging trade hub that is an increasingly important source of oil, metals and agricultural products such as cocoa for world markets.
Britain and the United States last month reversed their opposition to having armed guards on merchant ships amid growing acceptance that weapons could be the best deterrent to Somali gangs who have been seizing ships and holding their crews and cargo to ransom for the last five years.
On Monday Reuters said that security firms led by G4S are now providing armed guards to ships sailing pirate-infested Somali waters, with one start-up kitting out a gunboat to lead World War II style convoys, as shipowners step up their response to constant attacks.
G4S, which provides services ranging from airport and sports event security to prison management and cash transportation, has been in the vessel security market since 2003, but only recently switched to using armed guards.
G4S, currently serving two large Far Eastern shipowners, said it may also offer armed protection to shipping off the west coast of Africa and the Strait of Malacca, off Malaysia, both scenes of increasing pirate activity.
Other private security contractors offering protection against pirates include Typhon, a start-up chaired by Simon Murray, the ex-military chairman of commodities trading giant Glencore.
Typhon, backed by two major Asian shipping companies, plans to protect convoys of up to ten ships with an armed vessel complete with helicopter, chief executive and founder Anthony Sharpe told Reuters.
A report earlier this year estimated that maritime piracy costs the global economy between US$7 billion and US$12 billion through higher shipping costs and ransom payments.
Somali pirates were holding as many as 16 vessels hostage as of November 7, including the Blida, a 20,586-tonne Algerian-flagged carrier with 27 crew members.