The head of the Iranian Navy affirms that Iran is ready to save foreign ships from pirate attacks in international waters and keep up its escort duties. This comes as the Navy thwarted Somali pirates’ attempts to hijack a Maltese ship last week.
The Maltese-flagged Dandle was sailing toward Iran near the Omani coast last week when it was attack by pirates in four speedboats. However, the Iranian Navy managed to thwart the attack, Deputy Navy Commander Gholamreza Khadem Beighom said on Saturday.
It was the tenth clash between pirates and the Iranian Navy in the last two months.
On Friday Navy commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari as saying that Iran is willing to assist ships under attack if they request help.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Navy with its increased presence in international waters has provided protection for Iranian oil tankers and commercial ships, and will also help any foreign ship, ambushed by the pirates, which calls for help,” Sayyari told IRNA in an interview published on Friday.
Iranian naval ships have escorted nearly a thousand Iranian commercial ships and oil tankers in the Gulf of Aden and have had 30 major clashes with the pirates over the past two years, he said. He added that all ships Iran has escorted have passed safely through waters in the region. In line with international efforts against piracy, Iran’s Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 to safeguard maritime trade and in particular ships and oil tankers owned or leased by Iran.
At the beginning of this month International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said Iran was effectively fighting pirates. The Fars news agency quoted him as saying that the global maritime community is indebted to countries like Iran that have deployed forces to counter pirates.
According to the IMO, last year there were 489 incidences of piracy and armed robbery against ships, against 406 during the previous year. The areas most affected (five or more reported incidents) last year were East Africa and the Indian Ocean followed by the Far East and, in particular, the South China Sea, West Africa, South America and the Caribbean.
Last year two crew members were killed and 30 crew members were reportedly injured or assaulted, while 1 027 crew members were taken hostage or kidnapped. Fifty-seven vessels were reportedly hijacked, with one vessel reportedly still unaccounted for.
In the last week there have been four attempted hijackings by Somali pirates, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). As of May 23, the Bureau has recorded 211 attacks and 24 hijackings worldwide this year. Somali pirates have hijacked 21 vessels and killed 7 crewmembers over the last five months. They are currently holding 26 vessels and 522 hostages.
Meanwhile, the African Union has called on the United Nations to establish an air and sea blockade of Somalia to meet the crippling piracy challenge and prevent infiltration of foreign insurgents into the Horn of Africa country and to cut off their supply lines. According to Reuters, the African Union has confirmed that the United Nations is actively considering but gave no indication if a decision was imminent.