Somali pirates examined

Somali pirates have made sensational news recently. With the retaking of the French yacht Tanit (leading to the sad death of one of its owners in the crossfire) and with the successful U.S. Navy sniper operation from the USS Bainbridge DDG 96 (seen here moored alongside the cruiser USS Normandy CG 60 in the Seychelles in this U.S. Navy photo) against the pirates holding U.S. merchant marine captain Richard Phillips, there has been considerable coverage of Indian Ocean pirates. A recent article by former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, David Shinn on The East Africa Forum, discusses the pirates origins, their methods and some ideas for dealing with them. Interestingly, Shinn writes that the pirates may be using the AIS signals that merchant ships are required to broadcast as a way to locate possible ships for attack. An excerpt:

“Although Somali pirates operate from a variety of bases, their methodology is similar. The attack boats are small wood or fiber-glass fishing skiffs of twenty to sixty feet outfitted with dual engines of up to 85 HP. They are often carried and launched by “mother ships, usually fishing trawlers or dhows that were commandeered or purchased by the pirates. They use GPS devices, satellite phones and some have acquired equipment that enables them to pick up Automatic Identification Signals (AIS) required by commercial vessels. Each skiff contains three to seven pirates. If the attack occurs in the Gulf of Aden, the skiffs overnight off the coast of Yemen and attack when morning arrives at speeds of up to 30 knots in groups of two or three. They often fire automatic weapons and RPGs at the vessel. Ships that stop are more likely to be captured. The pirates use grappling hooks and ladders to board.”

By Ocean Navigator