Somali pirates firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades hijacked yet another ship in the Gulf of Aden on Friday, this time seizing a chemical tanker. A German military helicopter from a nearby warship arrived in time to pull three security guards out of the water, but not soon enough to prevent the hijacking of the ship and the rest of the crew.
By Nicholas Kulish
The New York Times
The latest attack, in which even trained security personnel aboard could not deter the pirates, demonstrated the urgent need for coordinated action by governments from Cairo to Berlin. But the bureaucratic and legal hurdles facing international institutions and national governments have so far defeated most efforts to deal with the nimble crews of pirates in speedboats, whose tactics have grown bolder as their profits have paid for better weapons and equipment.
The French warship Nivose escorts commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden. Somali pirates dodged an increased foreign naval presence in the Gulf of Aden to seize another ship as the deadline ticked down for a Saudi tanker held to ransom.(AFP/Eric Cabanis)
While the pirates have been buying GPS devices, satellite phones and more-powerful outboard motors, officials in Europe have been discussing jurisdictional issues surrounding the arrest of pirates on the high seas and even the possibility that the pirates might demand asylum if brought onto European Union shores.
Germany, perhaps more than any other country, epitomizes both the importance of safe passage for ships and the difficulty of reacting swiftly. It is the world’s leading exporter of goods, and according to the German Shipowners’ Association it has the world’s largest container-ship fleet, with some 36 percent of total container capacity.
That would seem to argue for swift action to stop the pirates, and Germany did indeed draw international attention earlier this week when it announced that up to 1,400 military personnel members might take part in the mission to combat piracy. But the figure significantly overstated the likely deployment as part of a European Union mission in the region, and Parliament has yet to approve it. It also remains to be seen whether the rules of engagement give German sailors a free enough hand to fight the pirates.