Indian Navy thwarts pirates, NATO captures four


The Indian Navy has thwarted an attempted pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday night, capturing weapons and ammunition and other piracy equipment. Meanwhile, NATO ships have captured four pirates responsible for hijacking of the MV Montecristo.

The Hindustan Times reports that the merchant vessel MV Desh Rakshak sailing in the Gulf of Aden sent out a distress signal when it noticed a boat towing a skiff approaching the vessel earlier this week. The Indian Navy large patrol vessel INS Sukanya altered its course for the merchant vessel and dispatched a Chetak light helicopter.

The helicopter warned the pirate boat to stop and told its crew to assemble on deck. Marine commandos boarded and searched the boat, discovering eight magazines and 320 rounds of ammunition as well as ladders and grapnels on board with the 14 pirates.

The weapons were seized and other equipment thrown overboard. The boat was then released, according to the Indian Navy. The incident marked the fourth time that the INS Sukanya has thwarted a pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden – on September 20 and 24, the patrol vessel stopped pirates attacking the ships it was escorting.

The Hindustan Times reports that Indian navy vessels have stopped 40 attempted acts of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and escorted 1 700 ships.

Meanwhile, NATO announced yesterday that naval units contributing to the organisation’s counter-piracy operation had boarded the mother ship responsible for launching the attack on the Italian merchant ship MV Montecristo last week.

The mother ship dhow was stopped whilst heading towards the Somali coast. Under the watchful eye of HMS Somerset, a boarding team from the RFA Fort Victoria boarded the dhow and discovered various items of equipment used to attack ships, including a variety of weapons hidden within the dhow’s compartments.

The investigation also revealed that Somali pirates had forced the Pakistani crew to use their dhow as a pirate mother ship. The dhow and its crew were subsequently set free and four Somali pirates were taken into custody by the Italian authorities to join the other eleven suspected pirates involved in the attack on MV Montecristo. They were captured last week by US and British naval forces after hijacking the Italian cargo vessel.

Describing the events, NATO’s Task Force Commander Rear Admiral Gualtiero Mattesi said that “our determination to disrupt and deter piracy has been clearly demonstrated in these two actions and our actions co-ordinated with our naval partners multiplies the effect of the NATO force to really challenge the pirates operations”.

While the number of successful hijackings has dropped this year due to better policing by international naval forces, the number of attempted hijackings is increasing. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said it recorded 352 attacks on ships, mainly by Somali pirates, from January to the end of September, up from 289 for the same period in 2010 but pirates only managed to seize 24 ships compared to 35 in the same period last year.

According to a recent report by the Centre for American Progress, piracy is estimated to cost the global economy US$22 billion. Since the beginning of the civil war in Somalia in 1991, an estimated US$804 million of dirty money has left the country.

Countries are spending billions on ransoms, increased insurance, the re-routing of ships from the Gulf of Aden, security, maintaining anti-piracy naval forces and prosecuting mostly Somali pirates in foreign courts. Costs are likely to increase as pirates extend their reach around Africa and the Indian Ocean.