Top Navy Admiral suggests arming merchant ships as pirates move east

Mike Schuler
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April 20, 2010

Last week, Navy Adm. Mark P. Fitzgerald, commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa and of NATO’s Allied Joint Task Force Command Naples, told Pentagon reporters that the scope of the piracy problem is too great to be policed by military vessels alone and even urge commercial vessels to arm themselves when transiting the piracy infested waters off Somalia.

“We could put a World War II fleet of ships out there,” Fitzgerald said, referring to the Gulf of Aden and the Mozambique Channel off the Indian coast, “and we still wouldn’t be able to cover the whole ocean.”

Meanwhile just today the maritime security blog EagleSpeak points us to an April 18th hijacking of three Thai Fishing vessels some 1,200 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, affirming Adm. Fitzgerald’s statement that there is just too much ocean to cover.

20/04/2010 12.10 UTC

On 18th April 2010, three Thai fishing vessels from Djibouti, were hijacked 1200 nautical miles east of the coast of Somalia.

These latest hijackings are the furthest east of any pirate attacks in the area since the start of EU NAVFOR’s Operation Atalanta in December 2008, almost 600 miles outside the normal EU NAVFOR operating area.  It is a clear indication that the EU anti piracy mission, together with those of NATO and CMF,  is having a marked effect on pirate activity in the area.

The hijacked vessels, MV PRANTALAY 11, (26 Thai crew) MV PRANTALAY 12 (25 Thai crew) and MV PRANTALAY 14 (26 Thai crew), belong to a Thai based company PT Interfishery Ltd.  EU NAV FOR can confirm that all 77 Thai crew are safe and well and that the vessels are heading towards the Somali coast. EU NAVFOR will continue to monitor the situation.

However, EagleSpeak notes that an attack at this distance might not be such a rare occurrence.

Actually, there have been reported attack at least as far as the one noted by the EU above, see NATO Shipping Center Somalia Piracy Update 20 Apr 2010,  for this report of an attack on a merchant (See above image):

18. April 2010

WARNING, Pirate Attack, Indian Ocean (0929 N,06856 E)

Alert number 334 / 2010.

At 0726 UTC a merchant vessel was attacked by one skiff in position 0929N 06856E.

See also reports of ships being captured 1000 miles off Somalia, near India Somali Pirates: Turkish Cargo Ship Taken 1000 miles at Sea (23 March 10), report of attack off India here (11 March 10), a December 2009 report of a tanker attacked 300 miles off India here with a follow on here.

Read more about the latest attacks in EagleSpeak post titled Somali Pirates: moving East, take 3 Thai Vessels 1200 miles off Somalia.

Also be sure to read the DoD release Admiral Urges Arming of Vessels to Combat Piracy

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