Somali pirates are increasing the frequency of their attacks and targeting larger ships, targeting oil supertankers and grain cargo vessels. Experts explain the rise in modern-day piracy and the efforts among the international community to curb the problem.
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Kidnapping, robbery and ransom on the high seas. Jeffrey Brown has that.
Modern-day piracy off the coast of Africa, it's been on the rise for several years and reaching new heights now with eight attacks just this week.
Last night, an Indian naval vessel destroyed a Somali pirate ship in the Gulf of Aden, but separate bands of buccaneers seized a Thai fishing boat and a cargo ship carrying grain to Iran.
The most spectacular raid of all occurred Saturday, when pirates captured a Saudi supertanker loaded with at least $100 million of oil, the largest ship ever hijacked.
In Italy today, the Saudi foreign minister said talks between the owners of the tanker and the pirates were ongoing.
PRINCE SAUD AL-FAISAL, Foreign Minister, Saudi Arabia:
We do not like to negotiate with either terrorists or hijackers, but the owners of the tanker are the owners of the tanker, and they are the final arbiters of what happens there.
Piracy, of course, has long been the stuff of legend and lore, from Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island," to the killing of Blackbeard off the coast of North Carolina, to Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.
But the modern, real version is a dangerous and costly affair. More than 20,000 oil tankers, freighters, and merchant vessels pass through the Gulf of Aden annually. So far this year, Somali pirates have launched almost 100 attacks on ships in and around the gulf, with at least three dozen having been hijacked.
The flare-up in piracy has led to higher insurance costs for shipping companies and forced some companies to divert ships around South Africa.
According to the International Maritime Bureau, a private group that monitors global piracy, at least 14 vessels with 243 crew members are still being held.
An official with the organization said today in London that a more forceful approach was needed to stem the wave of new attacks.
CAPT. POTTENGAL MUKUNDAN, Director, International Maritime Bureau:
I think the issue is that we need to deter them. We need to clearly signal to them that there is a risk in them carrying out these actions and that, you know, it is no longer a pirate's charter, these waters. I think that is the point that we have to get across. And if we get that across, then hopefully the attacks will come down.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the rise in pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia was tied to that country's ongoing political struggles.
GEOFF MORRELL, Pentagon Press Secretary:
This problem emanates not at sea. I mean, it starts from onshore. And clearly the Somali government needs help. This transitional federal government has acknowledged it does not have the capacity to deal with this problem. And so it needs additional help from the U.N., from the African Union, from the world to try to deal with some of the economic and governance problems that lead to the pirates.