Somalia: protein pirates strike again

A ship carrying tons of UN aid has refused to leave Kenya for Somalia following the May 19 pirate attack on an aid ship. The pirates failed to seize the ship, but one crew member was killed. It was the eighth priate attack of the year off Somalia’s coast. The US Navy warned vessels to stay clear of Somalia’s coast. The UN World Food Program has appealed for international action to secure the waters off the coast.

Somali pirates are trained fighters, often dressed in military fatigues, using speedboats equipped with satellite phones and Global Positioning System equipment. “Although there are coalition forces operating in the area, they cannot be everywhere monitoring every ship that passes the coast of Somalia,” the US Navy’s Maritime Liaison Office in Bahrain said in a statement. It urged ships to stay 200 nautical miles off Somalia’s coast.

Two ships carrying WFP aid were seized by pirates in 2005. The number of worldwide sea hijackings that year was 35, compared with two in 2004, according to the International Maritime Bureau. (AP, May 21)

WFP director Josette Sheeran said that unless urgent action is taken, supply lines be cut to a nation in dire need. Adds WFP public affairs officer Barry Came: “The fastest and cheapest way to get food aid in large quantities into Somalia is by sea. And in the last few weeks there has been an increase in the number, in the incidents of piracy. Since the beginning of the year there has been at least five instances. There were three in the last week alone involving fishing trawlers.”

He also provided details of the May 19 incident. “The Jordanian registered ship, the M.V. Victoria had just unloaded 4,000 tons of food aid in Merke and it was on its way back to Dar-es-Salaam. When it was about 60 nautical miles off the coast, it was attacked by pirates,” he said. “It issued a distress signal and the owners of the vessels, back in Merke, dispatched two boats full of armed guards out to the sea to fend off the pirates.”

Although there was a gun-battle that left one guard dead, the ship was recovered and taken back to Merke. (VOA, May 21)

See our last posts on the Somalia, piracy and the protein wars.