Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Somalia update: The war steps up

Last Friday...  The MV Arillah-I, a bulk freighter registered to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was attacked.  The pirates, armed with AK-47's and rocket-propelled grenades, approached in two skiffs launched from a mothership.  The crew of the ship, however, had already called for assistance and were secured in their vessel's safe room.  Instead the pirates were met by UAE Special Forces with air backing.  The ship is now on its way back to Dubai, where the pirates will be tried.  If convicted, they will face life in prison.

Yesterday...  Pirates aboard a captured Iranian dhow opened fire on Dutch Marines from the HMS Tromp who were investigating the situation.  A firefight ensued.  Two pirates were killed and essentially dumped overboard or--as the Dutch Defense Minister described it--"entrusted to the water."  Ten pirates failed to escape on their high-speed skiff, and six more still on the boat were also captured.  Another pirate vessel came onto the scene, apparently thinking they would take the dhow themselves, but was scared off by warning shots from the warship.  The legal fate of the held pirates remains uncertain.

Meanwhile...  The US cargo ship Horizon Producer sailed from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to demonstrate its advanced anti-pirate systems.  The technology includes cameras that can identify pirate boats from 10 miles away, high-powered water nozzles to blast potential boarders, a separate water system that sprays a chemical compound at the pirates to make them ill enough to pass out, and a "citadel" for the crew hunker down in while the action is going on.  Oh, and if the pirates get past all that, they may face an armored security force carrying M-4 carbines and .50-caliber rifles.  All of this available to you from International Maritime Security Network LLC for between $12,000, and $100,000 depending on the size of your ship.

This is not cutlasses and flintlocks, mate.  The battle against the Somali pirates is moving beyond naval brigades patrolling and posing.  And possibly on its way to full maritime war...

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