Archive for the ‘Indian Ocean’ Category

In Hijack Attempt, Somali Pirates Shoot At U.S. Cruise Liner

December 2, 2008

Pirates near Somalia chased and shot at a U.S. cruise liner with more than 1,000 people on board but failed to hijack the vessel, a maritime official said Tuesday.

The liner, carrying 656 international passengers and 399 crew members, was sailing in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday when it encountered six pirates in two speedboats, said Noel Choong who heads the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

By ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY, Associated Press Writer


The pirates fired at the passenger liner but the larger boat was faster than the pirates’ vessels, Choong said.

“It is very fortunate that the liner managed to escape,” he said, urging all ships to remain vigilant in the area.

The U.S. Navy‘s 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, said it was aware of the failed hijacking but did not have further details.

Ship owner Oceania Cruises Inc. identified the vessel as the M/S Nautica.

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In a statement on its Web site, the company said pirates fired eight rifle shots at the liner as it sailed along a maritime corridor patrolled by an international naval coalition, but that the ship’s captain increased speed and managed to outrun the skiffs. All passengers and crew are safe and there was no damage to the vessel, it said.

From Cruise Critic:

On November 30, 2008, at approximately 0928 local time, 0528 GMT, M/S NAUTICA was transiting through the Gulf of Aden within the prescribed Maritime Safety Protection Area which is patrolled by international anti-piracy task forces. As the vessel sailed past several groups of non-hostile fishing vessels, two small skiffs were sighted by the Officer on Duty and deemed potentially hostile. The skiffs, approaching from a range of approximately 1000 meters, attempted to intercept the vessel’s course.

“Captain Jurica Brajcic and his officers immediately began evasive maneuvers and took all prescribed precautions. NAUTICA was immediately brought to flank speed and was able to out run the two skiffs. One of the skiffs did manage to close the range to approximately 300 yards and fired eight rifle shots in the direction of the vessel before trailing off. No one aboard NAUTICA was harmed and no damage was sustained.

“All guests and crew onboard are safe and there were no injuries. All requisite international authorities have been notified and all anti-piracy precautions were in place prior to the event and all necessary measures were taken during the event.”

The Gulf of Aden lies between the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. Bordered by Djibouti and Somalia to the south west, and Yemen, to the north, this waterway is a mere 18 miles wide at its narrowest point (the Bab el Mandab Strait). It’s one of the most dangerous places in the world for ships, cargo and cruise vessels alike, to pass through due to increased piracy in the area.

This is actually the second time this year that pirates have zeroed in on a cruise ship. Le Ponant, a three masted luxury vessel, was seized in April by Somali pirates. That vessel was carrying 30 crew members — though no passengers — and after an eight day standoff those onboard were rescued. The ship ultimately was also rescued and pirates were captured.

Seabourn Spirit successfully outran a pirate attack in December 2005.

Most cruise ships that transit this most dangerous of international waterways are equipped with anti-piracy weaponry. A cruise captain whose ship traveled from the Mediterranean to the Seychelles already this fall, told Cruise Critic that particularly effective is a sonic device that is in essence like a heavy duty stereo speaker. It sends a sonic wave out to a directed target, punishing with a sound so potentially powerful that it bursts eardrums and shocks pirates into dropping weapons and losing focus.

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India and Pakistan: Two Very Dangerous Neighbors

December 1, 2008

The tensions between India and Pakistan since the Mumbai terrorism should serve as a reminder that India and Pakistan are two of the more dangerous neighbors on earth.

Both nuclear-armed, India and Pakistan have fought several wars since Britain left South Asia and the nations were “partitioned” in 1947.

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Wikipedia says, “resulted in the creation of the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, there have been three major wars, one minor war and numerous armed skirmishes between the two countries. In each case, except the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, where the dispute concerned East Pakistan, the casus belli was the disputed Kashmir region.”

India sees itself as a rival to another “emerging superpower”: China.  The two have tense relationships.

China has built the largest seaport in the world in Pakistan and provides Pakistan with military hardware, technology and assistance.  But when Pakistan recently needed cash, Hu Jintao’s China turned them away and sent them to the IMF.

The U.S. tries to have friendly and helpful relations with both India and Pakistan.  The U.S. just completed a nuclear technology assistance deal with India and Pakistan’s air force has U.S.-made F-16 aircraft.

China, the U.S., Pakistan and India all want a Navy strong enough to assure security in the Indian Ocean and surrounding sea lanes.  Persian Gulf oil headed to Japan, the U.S., and China all passes through these waters.

File photo of the Indian naval warship INS Tabar. A maritime ... 
The Indian naval warship INS Tabar has been involved in recent anti-piracy missions near Somalia.
AFP/Indian Navy/Ho/File

India has a variety of missiles including the short-range Prithvi ballistic missile, the medium-range Akash, and the supersonic Brahmos. The Agni missiles are the most powerful.

India last year successfully test-fired the Agni-III, which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads across much of Asia and the Middle East.

New Delhi says it developed its missile program as a deterrent against neighbors China and Pakistan.

The Agni-II missile being displayed on a mobile launcher during the 2004 Republic Day parade.

The Agni-II missile being displayed on a mobile launcher during the 2004 Republic Day parade.

Pakistan has its own ballistic missiles plus assistance from China on many weapons and projects.

JF-17 testing.jpg


China and Pakistan’s Strategic Importance: Background

JF-17 “Thunder” Aircraft Join Pakistani Air Force

Pakistan’s Ghauri missile can strike into India and other neighboring nations….

Four months after the U.S. ordered its troops into Afghanistan to remove the Taliban regime, China and Pakistan joined hands to break ground in building a Deep Sea Port on the Arabian Sea. The project was sited in an obscure fishing village of Gwadar in Pakistan’s western province of Baluchistan, bordering Afghanistan to the northwest and Iran to the southwest. Gwadar is nautically bounded by the Persian Gulf in the west and the Gulf of Oman in the southwest.

Attacks push India and Pakistan into deep water: analysts

India navy defends piracy sinking

November 26, 2008

The Indian navy has defended its action in sinking a ship near Somalia that maritime officials have confirmed was a hijacked Thai fishing boat.

The International Maritime Bureau said the Ekawat Nava 5 had been captured by pirates earlier in the day on 18 November and the crew was tied up.

An Indian Navy picture shows an alleged pirate vessel burning ... 
An Indian Navy picture shows an alleged pirate vessel burning after being hit during anti-piracy operations at sea in the Gulf of Aden on November 18. A maritime watchdog said Wednesday that the Indian navy had attacked and sunk a Thai fishing trawler after mistaking it for a Somali pirate “mother vessel” in the Gulf of Aden.(AFP/Indian Navy/Ho/File)


One crewman was found alive after six days adrift but 14 are still missing.

The Indian navy says the INS Tabar fired upon a pirate ship threatening it

The Indian navy said the ship was a pirate vessel in “description and intent” and had opened fire first.

India is one of several countries currently patrolling the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, amid increasing attacks by Somali pirates.

Almost 40 ships have been seized this year, the biggest the Saudi oil tanker, Sirius Star, which is still being held off the Somali coast.

File photo of the Indian naval warship INS Tabar. A maritime ... 
File photo of the Indian naval warship INS Tabar. A maritime watchdog said Wednesday that the Indian navy had attacked and sunk a Thai fishing trawler after mistaking it for a Somali pirate “mother vessel” in the Gulf of Aden.(AFP/Indian Navy/Ho/File)

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What to Do About Piracy, Pirates?

November 26, 2008

By James A. Lyons
The Washington Times

The latest hijacking of the newly commissioned Saudi Aramco mega-tanker, the Sirius Star, 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya, in the Indian Ocean has raised the issue of piracy to a new level.

The tanker’s displacement is 3 times that of a U.S. aircraft carrier. Piracy hijackings in maritime choke points have gone on for years. The Straits of Malacca in Southeast Asia had been a favorite pirate area until brought under acceptable control by the countries in the area, led by Singapore. With no functioning government, pirate attacks along the southeastern coast of Somali have long been a problem.

What’s different is that the Somali pirates have expanded their area of operations into the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and now the Indian Ocean (I.O.). The ability of the pirates to intercept this mega-tanker so far out in the I.O. suggests they were able to obtain either track information from an outside source or they were electronically able to intercept the ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS). The AIS system is driven by Radio Frequencies (RD) that can be intercepted and tracked by any ship with an RF intercept capability.

The Gulf of Aden has become the most dangerous transit route for maritime ships in the world. As a result, it has interrupted traditional maritime routes causing interest rates to jump and has significantly raised the operating costs to ship operators.

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Five Nations Meet In Emergency Anti-Pirate Discussions

November 20, 2008

A spate of pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia has prompted an emergency meeting between nations bordering the Red Sea to deal with the problem.

Senior officials from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen are meeting in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.


It comes amid a report that pirates who hijacked a Saudi oil tanker on Saturday are demanding a $25m (£17m) ransom.

However, the Sirius Star’s owners, who are negotiating with the pirates, have cast doubt on that figure.

The Sirius Star, the biggest tanker ever hijacked, is carrying a cargo of 2m barrels – a quarter of Saudi Arabia’s daily output – worth more than $100m.

It is now anchored off the Somali coast with around 25 crew members being held as hostages.

Sirius Star off the coast of Somalia (US Navy image via Getty Images)

The Sirius Star has 25 crew – who are said to be unharmed.

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Indian Navy Destroys Pirate ‘Mother Ship’ in Battle Near Somalia

November 19, 2008

NEW DELHI —  An Indian naval vessel sank a suspected pirate “mother ship” Wednesday in the Gulf of Aden and chased two attack boats into the night, officials said, yet more violence in the lawless seas where brigands are becoming bolder and more violent.

Separate bands of pirates also seized a Thai ship with 16 crew members and an Iranian cargo vessel with a crew of 25 in the Gulf of Aden, where Somalia-based pirates appear to be attacking ships at will, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

In this Nov. 11, 2008 file photo made available by Indian Navy, ... 
In this Nov. 11, 2008 file photo made available by Indian Navy, Indian warship INS Tabar, right, escorts the MV Jag Arnav ship to safety after rescuing it from a hijack attempt by Somali pirates. The Indian navy says the INS Tabar dedicated to fighting pirates has successfully fought off an attempted pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden, sparking explosions and a fire on the suspected pirate ship late Tuesday, Nov. 18.(AP Photo/Indian Navy, HO, File)

“It’s getting out of control,” Choong said.

A multicoalition naval force has increased patrols in the region, and scored a rare success Tuesday when the Indian warship, operating off the coast of Oman, stopped a ship similar to a pirate vessel mentioned in numerous piracy bulletins. The Indian navy said the pirates fired on the INS Tabar after the officers asked it to stop to be searched.

INS Tabar transfers a man to another ship at sea.

“Pirates were seen roaming on the upper deck of this vessel with guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers,” said a statement from the Indian navy. Indian forces fired back, sparking fires and a series of onboard blasts — possibly due to exploding ammunition — and destroying the ship.

Above: Somali pirates

INS Tabar, a multipurpose frontline warship, seen in Mumbai ...

Above: Indian Navy warship Tabar  

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With a VIDEO:

Somali Pirates, After Grabbing Biggest Prize, Negotiate for Loot

November 18, 2008

Vela International Marine Ltd, a Dubai-based marine company which operates the Saudi-owned Sirius Star, said it was working to secure the release of the supertanker and her crew.

A spokesman for the company said all 25 crew were believed to be safe.

The Saudi-owned vessel was hijacked on Saturday, 450 nautical miles south east of Mombasa.

The large oil tanker is owned by Saudi oil company Aramco but was sailing under a Liberian flag.

The Telegraph (UK)

Earlier, a spokesman for the Foreign Office had confirmed that two of those on board are British but could not give any details of their role on the ship.

US Navy spokesman Lieutenant Nate Christensen, of the 5th Fleet, said: “We don’t know the condition of the crew on board or the nature of the pirates’ demands. In cases like this what we typically see is a demand for money from the ship owners but we haven’t had that yet.

This undated picture made at an unknown location shows the Sirius ... 
This undated picture made at an unknown location shows the Sirius Star tanker conducting a trial run in South Korea. Somali pirates have hijacked the Saudi-owned oil tanker the Sirius Star off the Kenyan coast, the U.S. Navy said Monday, Nov. 17, 2008. The tanker owned by Saudi oil company Aramco, is 330 meters (1,080 feet), about the length of an aircraft carrier, making it one of the largest ships to sail the seas. It can carry about 2 million barrels of oil. Lt. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, said the Sirius Star was carrying crude at the time of Saturday’s hijacking, but he did know how much.(AP Photo/ Newsis via Daewoo shipping yards and commissioned )

“We don’t know exactly where they are taking it but we know the town of Eyl is a pirate stronghold.”

Eyl is in the northern Puntland region of Somalia and has become notorious for pirate activity over the past months. Dozens of ships are thought to be being held captive there.

The supertanker is the largest ship to fall victim to pirates, the US Navy said. It is 1,080ft (330m) long and can carry about 2 million barrels of oil.

The hijack, which was the first successful attack so far out at sea, raises fears that international patrols nearer the coast and in the Gulf of Aden will not be enough to protect vital trade routes as pirate gangs become ever more audacious.

The Sirius Star was carrying a cargo of crude oil and had 25 crew members on board when it was attacked.

Somali Pirates Capture Biggest Prize Ever: “Supertanker” Loaded With Oil

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Somali Pirates Capture Biggest Prize Ever: “Supertanker” Loaded With Oil

November 17, 2008

The U.S. Navy says Somali pirates have hijacked a Saudi-owned oil tanker off the Kenyan coast.

Lt. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, says the pirates hijacked the vessel Saturday. The tanker is owned by Saudi oil company Aramco and was sailing under a Liberian flag.

Christensen says the pirates took control of the ship 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya. He spoke Monday by phone from the 5th Fleet’s Bahrain headquarters.

–Associated Press

Link to Fox News:,2933,453030,00.html


From the BBC

Pirates have taken control of a Saudi-owned oil tanker in the Indian Ocean off the Kenyan coast, the US Navy says.

The tanker was seized 450 nautical miles south-east of the port of Mombasa, a US Navy spokesman said.

Twenty five crew are said to be on board, including members from Croatia, the UK, the Philippines, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

The Sirius Star oil tanker (image from Aramco website)
The Sirius Star made its maiden voyage in March of this year

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Photo of ship captured by pirates

The U.S. Fifth Fleet said in a release that pirates attacked the Sirius Star, a Liberian-flagged crude tanker owned by Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s state oil company. It said the ship was operated by Vela International and had a crew of 25, including citizens of Croatia, the U.K., the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

By Barbara Surk
The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (Nov. 17) – Somali pirates hijacked a supertanker hundreds of miles off the Horn of Africa, seizing the Saudi-owned ship loaded with crude and its 25-member crew, the U.S. Navy said Monday.
It appeared to be the largest ship ever seized by pirates.
After the brazen hijacking, the pirates on Monday sailed the Sirius Star to a Somali port that has become a haven for bandits and the ships they have seized, a Navy spokesman said.
The hijacking was among the most brazen in a surge in attacks this year by ransom-hungry Somali pirates. Attacks off the Somali coast have increased more than 75 percent this year, and even the world’s largest vessels are vulnerable.
The Sirius Star, commissioned in March and owned by the Saudi oil company Aramco, is 1,080 feet long — about the length of an aircraft carrier — making it one of the largest ships to sail the seas. It can carry about 2 million barrels of oil.
Lt. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, said the pirates hijacked the ship on Saturday about 450 nautical miles off the coast of Kenya — the farthest out to sea Somali pirates have struck.
By expanding their range, Somali pirates are “certainly a threat to many more vessels,” Christensen said. He said the pirates on the Sirius Star were “nearing an anchorage point” at the Somali port town of Eylon Monday.
Somali pirates have seized at least six several ships off the Horn of Africa in the past week, but the hijacking of a supertanker marked a dramatic escalation.
The pirates are trained fighters, often dressed in military fatigues, using speedboats equipped with satellite phones and GPS equipment. They are typically armed with automatic weapons, anti-tank rockets launchers and various types of grenades.

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Who Are These Somali Pirates?By Robyn Hunter


“No information today. No comment,” a Somali pirate shouts over the sound of breaking waves, before abruptly ending the satellite telephone call.
He sounds uptight – anxious to see if a multi-million dollar ransom demand will be met.

He is on board the hijacked Ukrainian vessel, MV Faina – the ship laden with 33 Russian battle tanks that has highlighted the problem of piracy off the Somali coast since it was captured almost a month ago.

But who are these modern-day pirates?

According to residents in the Somali region of Puntland where most of the pirates come from, they live a lavish life.


“They have money; they have power and they are getting stronger by the day,” says Abdi Farah Juha who lives in the regional capital, Garowe.

They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars; new guns,” he says.

“Piracy in many ways is socially acceptable. They have become fashionable.”

Most of them are aged between 20 and 35 years – in it for the money.

And the rewards they receive are rich in a country where….

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Somali Pirates: NATO Ships Can Only Watch

November 4, 2008

Forty days ago, Solami pirates took control of the cargo ship MV Faina  loaded with missiles, tanks and other war supplies.   A Nato armada, at the request of the United Nations, set sail to waters off Somalia to deal with the pirates.  But they can do nothing because political leaders cannot figure out the rules of engagement….

Chege Mbitiru
The nation, Nairobi

Swinging of earrings – they remain stationary despite movement – is evident in international war against Somali sea pirates. The Nato armada in the region and MV Faina cargo ship standoff serve as examples.

The pirates captured the ship 40 days ago. Two weeks ago, a Nato armada, at the request of the United Nations, set sail to waters off Somalia to deal with the pirates.

NATO warships passing through the Suez Canal. A spate of high-profile ...
NATO warships passing through the Suez Canal. A spate of high-profile hijackings by Somali pirates has spurred western navies into action but experts argue that a handful of warships can do little to stamp out the lucrative piracy business.(AFP/Po Luigi Cotrufo)

Reuters reported the force commander, US Admiral Mark Fitzgerald’s gloom. Militarily, he said, the force can do little. Reason? Neither Nato’s European Council, nor the UN Security Council had figured out the rules of engagement.

Yet six nations provided the ships, including destroyers, interestingly, to fight fibreglass speedboats. Additionally, Russia and India sent a warship each. On Thursday, undeterred pirates seized a Turkish vessel.

Piracy off Somalia’s 3,296-kilometre coast for ransoms didn’t start the other day. That Somalia long became cartographic lines and, therefore, incapable of performing state functions, is trite.

For at least ten years, piracy has steadily grown into a routine and lucrative business. From vessels carrying relief food, pirates moved to merchant and cruise ships, ocean going tugboats, yachts and support vessels.

First to say

The UN should have been the first to say, “Stop or else.” Ships ferrying UN World Food Programme supplies were initial targets. Moreover, the UN has an agency to oversee maritime safety, the International Maritime Organization.

The pirates’ audacity and brazenness seem to have prompted the UN’s not-so-well-thought move. “Think of us as coast guard,” said Mr. Sugule Ali, a spokesperson of pirates holding MV Faina. It has a Ukraine’s cargo of 33 tanks, rocket launchers and ammunition destined to Kenya.

Media reports indicate the pirates this year have struck 75 times, captured 30 ships and are holding a dozen and crew after releasing some for ransoms of between $18-$30 millions. Briefly, an important maritime route heads to uselessness.

Incidentally, assuming MV Faina’s cargo was above board, Ukraine and Kenya should have alerted the Combined Task Force 150.

After all, the force, which has ships from several nations, including the United States, is supposed to monitor movements of terrorist groups like al-Shabaab in Somalia. Ensuring such cargo as MV Faina’s doesn’t end up with them fits the Task Force’s bill.

Anyway, back Admiral Fitzgerald. He said for now the force would focus on escorting WFP ships delivering aid to Somalia. He cited the case of a Danish naval ship. Late September, the Danes captured ten pirates but later freed them because Danish law didn’t permit their trial in Demark.

Some other laws prevented Denmark from handing the men over to another country.

Legal issues need attention. Undoubtedly, the European Council, in conjunction with the United Nations, will do so while formulating the rules of engagement for the admiral’s armada. It’s obvious by now that’s a long haul for an emergency. Short cuts exist.

People in speedboats, armed with AK47s, wielding grenade launchers and carrying ropes, grappling hooks and ladders in an area prone to sea piracy don’t qualify as deep-sea anglers. Blow them up!

The same goes for their mother ships–support vessels–found carrying such incriminating paraphernalia. Illegal, lawyers will argue and jam several courts with suits.

What about confiscating suspected pirates’ arms, all equipments, boats’ engines and leave the lot a drift for some days and later send it home to tell tales.

Inhumane, human rights buffs will shout.

While the shouting and argument continues, the UN can work out a civilised way of dealing with the pirates since the Somali “tar baby” the world is stuck with isn’t melting soon: Hire a ship, anchor it off the Somali coast and set up a court and jail for convicted pirates under the old Somali law.

At least that’s better than swinging earrings.

The French frigate 'Courbet' was involved in a rescue ... 
The French frigate ‘Courbet’ was involved in a rescue operation to free a luxury yacht in September 2008. The French navy has arrested eight suspected pirates and handed them over to authorities in the breakaway Somali region of Puntland.(AFP/Marine Nationale/File/null)

France, Spain launch anti-piracy plan

November 2, 2008

DJIBOUTI (AFP) –The defense ministers of France and Spain on Sunday launched a European Union military operation to combat piracy off the Somali coast.

“This is the inception of the operation which will be formalized on November 10” at a meeting of EU defense ministers in Brussels, French Defence Minister Herve Morin told reporters.

Accompanied by his Spanish counterpart Carme Chacon, he was speaking in Djibouti, where the pair were on a brief visit to assess multinational efforts to secure the strategic Somali waters and review their anti-piracy arsenal.

Both French and Spanish ships were among the at least 77 vessels attacked for ransom by Somali pirates since the start of the year.

What French President Nicolas Sarkozy has described as a “criminal industry” has threatened to disrupt world trade with relentless attacks in the Gulf of Aden, through which 30 percent of the world’s oil transits.

The high-profile case of the September capture by pirates of a Ukrainian cargo loaded with weapons apparently destined for southern Sudan has contributed in spurring the international community into action.

France, which has a major military base in neighboring Djibouti, is so far the only country to have used its firepower against the pirates in April and September operations following hostage-takings.

Spain has pledged two ships and one surveillance aircraft to the new operation, while France has opened its base to the Spanish forces for logistical support.

Morin said Britain would take the command of the joint force and added that other contributions from Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden were awaiting final confirmation.

NATO warships recently arrived in the region in a bid to secure the maritime delivery of food aid to the civilian population of Somalia, where a deadly civil conflict continues to rage.

Experts have warned however that sending foreign warships to such a vast area would hardly sound the death knell of Somali piracy, which has flourished in recent months.

Pirates argue that their attacks are in retaliation for the plundering of their water resources by foreign fishing navies and the dumping of toxic waste in their waters.

They often cite France and Spain as among the worst offenders on the issue of illegal fishing.