February is the month when most cruising sailors set out to transit the Red Sea. At this time of year the winds in the south Red Sea are favourable, and a boat will reach the Mediterranean just in time for the European Spring. However, the challenge this year will not be just the Red Sea, but the pirate infested Gulf of Aden. For this, a security corridor has been established, and boats are advised to travel in convoys.
Somali Pirates photographed from US Navy ships who encircle the hijacked Faina
In an incredible standoff, just off the Somalian coastline, no less than six American warships are circling the hijacked Ukrainian freighter the MV Faina, laden with a cargo of 33 tanks, small arms and ammunition and bound for southern Sudan. The ransom started at $20m, but recent reports suggest it is now down to $5m. The pirates have declared they will fight to the death.
This is just the latest and most dramatic of 50 serious attacks on ships in this region in the past year. Two yachts have been seized, each rescued in dramatic circumstances by French commandos. However, normally ransoms are paid, and this has exacerbated the situation. Twelve ships remain as hostages, with ransom demands pending. It seems that the entire economy has been privatized by the overlapping criminal enterprises whose business is the smuggling of weapons and people, obtaining 'taxes' and protection fees from the foreign fishing boats that ply Somalia's waters, and preying on the yachts and cargo vessels that sail off its coast.
In a notice to mariners receive from Sean T. Connaughton of the US Maritime Administration (MARAD), suggested waypoints are given for vessels wanting to transit the area, as follows:
1. This MARAD advisory provides suggested saypoint s for commercial vessels to transit the Gulf of Aden.
2. Marlo Bahrain sent a message on 25th August which stated that the Commander, U.S. Naval Central Command has directed the establishment of a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) in the Gulf of Aden.
3. FURTHERMORE, A force of Coalition Navy warships will patrol the AREA, and aircraft will fly in the airspace above. Commodore Bob Davidson (Canadian Navy), commander Combined Task Force 150, will command naval forces in the patrol area. The MSPA is being established in support of the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) ongoing efforts. Coalition actions will give the IMO time to work international preventative efforts that will ultimately lead to a long-term solution. Coalition ships are in the area as part of our continual presence in this region. While they have conducted routine operations in the area in the past, the establishment of the MSPA will focus the efforts to counter destabilizing activities in the region and improve security while long-term initiatives mature.
4. Coordinates of suggested corridor through the Gulf of Aden:
Waypoint: 12 15N 045E
Waypoint: 12 35N 045E
Waypoint: 13 35N 049E
Waypoint: 13 40N 049E
Waypoint: 14 10N 050E
Waypoint: 14 15N 050E
Waypoint: 14 35N 053E
Waypoint: 14 45N 053E.
5. Marlo Bahrain may be contacted at
Email: email@example.com for regional information the the area of responsibility.
6. For further information regarding this advisory, contact:
Mr. Owen Doherty,
Maratime Administration, Office of Security,
CODE: MAR-420, ROOM W23-312,
1200 NEW JERSEY AVE, S.E.,
WASHINGTON, DC 20590,
TELEPHONE 202-366-1883 ,
FACSIMILE 202-366 -3954,
Pirates as Heroes:
The UN has failed to tackle the root cause of a growing danger. Murithi Mutiga of The Observer comments that it is a fair bet that a teenager in Somalia today aspires to be a pirate. That's not just because of the rich pickings young men such as those who seized the Ukrainian arms ship 10 days ago can expect to draw. Pirates in Somalia are imbued with an aura of nationalist heroism.
They are regarded as unlikely eco-warriors. Because of the lack of a functional government, the UN says the long Somalia coast is a favourite dumping point for ships with toxic waste. Illegal fishing is rampant. Trawlers routinely use fishing methods banned years ago. In this context, piracy is seen as one way of benefiting from a precious water resource from which the locals have in effect been elbowed out. This enterprise is hugely profitable. Therein lies the challenge for the international community. Pirates are thought to have made between £10m and £17m this year alone.