Suffer Little Pirates, Who Come to the Sea
By ANDREW MWANGURA, MICHAEL LOGAN
Weekly Report: Friday November 18, 2011
Somalia Report maintains an extensive search-and-rescue database on hijacked ships, kidnapped crews and land-based hostages. In an effort to clarify the often confusing and deliberately misleading information communicated by pirates we publish a weekly update.
At least 16 ships (9 commercial vessels, 7 fishing vessels) and an estimated 304 hostages are in the control of Somali pirates, as well as an unknown number of small dhows.
In an disturbing shift from piracy to kidnapping, just over 10% (41) of these hostages, including crew members from the MT Asphalt Venture, MV Orna, SY Choizil, MV Leopard and tourist Judith Tebbutt are being held on land or on board other vessels.
So far, estimated ransom payments in 2011 amount to $128.5 million for the release of 27 vessels and 25 hostages released independently of their ships. Please see the table below for the breakdown of how we arrived at this updated figure (note that since many of the figures quoted were given by pirates, who can exaggerate the ransom paid to drive up prices, the likelihood is that the real figure is smaller).
You could almost start to feel sorry for Somalia’s bands of pirates, if they weren’t such a collection of unscrupulous, criminally-minded rapscallions. To call the recent run of poor results a “dry spell” would be rather like using the same phrase to describe the drought that caused so much misery in Somalia this year.
Another week has gone by without the pirates coming even close to taking another ship. The last high-value ship taken was the MT Liquid Velvet on October 31, and even that was an anomaly. Before that, you have to go back to the MT Fairchem Bogey, taken on August 20, to register another high-value vessel they managed to hold on to.
The reasons behind this inability to seize ships have been discussed endlessly on this and other sites covering piracy, so we won’t go into them again other than to point out that the Indian navy highlighted the problems facing the pirate gangs when they foiled an attack and arrested 26 Somalis who had boarded a merchant vessel. Additionally, the IMB registered only two attacks on merchant vessels in the last week, both unsuccessful.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the pirates are going to have to dramatically change their tactics if they want to get back in the game, and turning to kidnapping more people from land (as they have done in recent months with the two aid workers from Galkayo and tourists from the Kenyan coast) isn’t going to keep them in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.
Releasing seamen without receiving a ransom isn’t going to revive the business model, but that’s exactly what one group did this week, setting free 11 Pakistanis from a fishing vessel that had been used as a mother ship.
The vessel had died on the pirates, meaning it could no longer be used as a mother ship, and after negotiations with elders, the group presumably decided there was no money to be had from the Pakistani fishermen, handing them over to the Himan & Heb administration.
As if facing problems on the high seas wasn’t enough, the pirates have become embroiled in various unpleasant scenarios on land.
Officials in Garacad say that an operation lasting several weeks netted them nine skiffs, a bunch of vehicles and dozens of pirates. The claims sound a bit extravagant if we are being honest, but there is no doubt that land-based initiatives in Puntland are taking their toll.
Then there are the various battles that at least provide the pirates with an opportunity to vent their frustration at not being able to hijack any vessels.
First up, the pirates got involved in battle between police and human traffickers in Mareero, a village 30km east of Bosaso in Bari region.
Each year, smugglers take thousands of Ethiopian and Somali refugees across the Gulf of Aden, charging around $100 each for passage. Many of the refugees don’t make it, forced to swim the last few kilometres as the smugglers try to avoid the Yemeni coastguard. Is it any wonder, then, that the pirates joined forces with such a bunch of complete swines – kindred spirits, no doubt – to defend the smugglers?
Even more bloody, and long-term, is a fight between the Majeerteen sub-clans –of Ali Saleban and Ugas Saleban, which has dragged pirates into the conflict and upped the death toll.
Dozens have died since a group of pirates led by Cisse Yulux from the Ali Saleban clan joined the fight two months ago, while more pirates from the Ugad Saleban clan, led by Baduugaaye, are joining in. Both clans began to use heavy weapons when pirates joined up, according to witnesses in Rako Raho. Pirates are deploying from Garacad, Hobyo, Harardhere, Bargaal and Ceel Dhanaane to fight for their clans.
It may be callous to say so, but few would bet against people in the shipping industry egging the pirates on in this conflict with a view to thinning out the numbers.
Get us out of here
Despite the relatively low numbers of new vessels being taken, there are still at least 16 ships in captivity, and the crews on some of the longer-held vessels are getting heartily sick of being held hostage.
The Syrian and Sri Lankan crew of the Panama-flagged MV Orna have been held for almost one year, but they feel that their ship owner, Kassab Intershipping, has betrayed them.
The master of the vessel, Capt. Ibrahim Jawhar, told Somalia Report that the ship owner has abandoned the crew, accusing him of constantly shifting the goal posts after agreeing to pay a ransom.
“Initially the gunmen were demanding $10 million, but they are now willing to accept $2.2 million,” he said.
The UAE-owned vessel was attacked by two pirate skiffs armed with RPGs and small arms some 460 nautical miles north east of the Seychelles while underway from Durban, South Africa heading to Okhaa, Indian laden with 27,000 tons of coal.
It is a similar story on the Malaysian-flagged MV Albedo, which is one week away from one year in pirate hands.
Nareman Jawaid the daughter of the master of the vessel, Capt. Jawaid Salem, told Somalia Report they have no idea what is happening, and that as far as they know contact has been severed.
“It hurts very much to say that I have not been in touch with my dad since November last year,” she said.
Nareman said that the only person who has been in contact with the crew is pirate negotiator-cum-translator Ahmed Phinoy. She said Phinoy told her he has not spoken to the master of the vessel since September this year.
Sources close to the captors of the vessel told Somalia Report two weeks ago that the gunmen are demanding US$5 million ransom, and that some of the crew are being held on shore.
The Malaysian flagged container ship was attacked on November 26, 2010 while underway 293 miles west of the Maldives on the Indian Ocean. The 23 crew members are Bangladeshi, Iranian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan nationals.
This article was posted by Neptune Maritime Security with the kind permission of SomaliaReport.com. MaritimeSecurity.Asia in cooperation with www.neptunemaritimesecurity.com