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Friday, June 18, 2010

Finally, A Way to Put Pirates on Trial

Foreign Policy

As we've reported several times here at FP, stopping the Somali pirates who are tormenting the Gulf of Aden is a legal disaster. No one really knows who has jurisdiction to try them; everyone is afraid of getting stuck with unwelcome Somali prisoners; and no one could quite justify the high cost of putting them on trial. But yesterday, at least one of those obstacles seems to have been overcome: donors will give $9.3 million to the Sechelles and Kenya to fund pirate trials.

It's about time! There are 540 pirates awaiting that fate already, and more piling up. But what's really great is that this is a breakthrough for both the pirate-catching Navies futily patrolling the coast (which have, up until now, been reluctant to actually apprehend their enemy...) and the human rights community, which has rightfully worried that Somali pirates were not getting a fair lot. (Because let's be honest, many of the pirates we catch aren't the real criminals drawing in the loot; they are just footsoldiers of the pirate economy, trying to make a buck.)

The real winners in this, though are Kenya and the Seychelles, who will see an influx of resources to their courts and get international props for stepping up to do what no one else is eager to: Try the pirates. No wonder Mauritius recently told the EU that it would be willing to get in on this pirate-trying too.

Here is a list of ships under the control of Somali pirates:

* SOCOTRA 1: Seized on Dec. 25, 2009. The Yemeni-owned ship was captured in the Gulf of Aden after it left the port of Alshahr in Yemen. There were six Yemeni crew on board.

* AL NISR AL SAUDI: Seized on March 1, 2010. The Saudi-owned 5,136 dwt tanker was on its way from Japan to Jeddah with one Greek and 13 Sri Lankan crew members.

* UBT OCEAN: Seized on March 5, 2010. Pirates hijacked the Marshall Islands-registered tanker off Madagascar. It was carrying fuel oil from the United Arab Emirates to Tanzania and had a crew of 21. The 9,000-dwt tanker is owned by Norwegian company Brovigtank.

* SAKOBA: Seized in March 2010. The Spanish-owned fishing vessel carried 10 Kenyans, one Spaniard, one Pole, one Cape Verdean, a Namibian and two Senegalese. Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme said it could be used as a "mother ship" to launch more attacks.

* FRIGIA: Seized on March 23. The 35,244-dwt ship was Maltese-flagged and was hijacked off the Indian coast with a crew of 21 -- 19 Turks and two Ukrainians.

* ICEBERG 1: Seized on March 29. Pirates boarded the roll-on roll-off vessel 10 miles outside Aden Port in the Gulf of Aden. The ship carried 24 crew.

* AL-BARARI: Seized on March 31. The small Indian trade boat was captured after it left Mogadishu port, having unloaded food and medicine there. It carried a crew of 11.

-- In late March Somali pirates captured seven other small Indian boats known as dhows, together with around 100 crew. Three were freed in early April. Maritime advocacy group Ecoterra said the pirates were holding six more cargo dhows.

* SAMHO DREAM: Seized on April 4. The 319,000 dwt Samho Dream was en route to the United States from Iraq when it was hijacked 970 miles east of the Somali coast. The Marshall Islands-registered ship is South Korean-owned, had a crew of five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos and carried 2 million barrels of crude oil. On April 21, Somali pirates threatened to blow up the supertanker unless a $20 million ransom was paid.

* RAK AFRIKANA: Seized on April 11. The St Vincent and the Grenadines-flagged 7,561 dwt cargo ship MV Rak Afrikana was hijacked about 280 nautical miles west of the Seychelles. The ship is owned by Seychelles' Rak Afrikana Shipping Ltd.

* Three Thai fishing vessels -- PRANTALAY 11, 12 and 14 -- were hijacked on April 17-18 with a total of 77 crew.

* VOC DAISY: Seized on April 21. The Panama-flagged bulk ship with its crew of 21 Filipinos, was captured 190 miles southeast of the Omani port of Salalah. The bulk carrier was sailing from the UAE to a Suez Canal port.

* AL-DHAFIR: Seized on May 7. The Yemeni fishing boat was seized off the coast of Yemen with a crew of seven fisherman.

* MARIDA MARGUERITE: Seized on May 8. The chemical tanker en route from Kandla in Gujarat to Antwerp in Belgium was hijacked some 150 miles south of Salalah off the Gulf of Aden with crew aboard of 22 -- 19 Indians, two Bangladeshis and one Ukrainian.

* PANEGA: Seized on May 11. The ship, with 15 crew and a deadweight of 5,848 tonnes, was seized about 100 miles east of the Yemeni port of Aden.

* ELENI P: Seized on May 12. The Liberia-flagged and Greek-owned ship, carrying iron and sailing from Ukraine to China via Singapore was seized in the Gulf of Aden. Of the 24 people on board, two were Greeks and the rest Filipinos, the company said.


-- Pirate attacks around the world fell by 34 percent in the first quarter of 2010 from a year ago due to the continued presence of foreign navies in the Gulf of Aden.

-- The London-headquartered International Maritime Bureau says its piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur logged a total of 67 incidents from January to March 2010. There were 102 incidents in the first three months of 2009.

-- Nearly 20,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year, heading to and from the Suez Canal.