Strong Arm Tactics

The tide maybe starting to turn as shipowners stiffen their resolve in the struggle with Somali pirates.

Indeed it seems there is a definite trend towards increased resistance from many vessels as they look to stem the tide of the growing number of hijackings.

“When there are convoys or patrol boats in the area we hire armed guards from Yemen’s navy. We have no choice. The only language terrorists understand is an armed response,” Stolt Nielsen CEO Niels G. Stolt Nielsen tells Dagens Næringsliv (DN).

In one of the latest attacks, the Norwegian-owned tanker MV Samho Jewelry sailing under Maltese flag was pirated with its cargo of chemicals on Saturday in the waters of Oman, approximately 350 nautical miles South East of the port of Muscat, reports EUNAVFOR.

News agency AP reports South Korea’s Foreign Ministry confirms the ship is operated by the South Korean firm Samho Shipping and has a crew of 21. Eight are South Koreans, two Indonesian, and the rest Burmese.

The incident brought the number of vessels attacked by Somali pirates to 29, with a total of 693 hostages, and came just three days after the Danish cargo ship MV Leopard was hijacked in the Arabian Sea. The crew of 4 Filipinos and 2 Danes has yet to be found.

Norwegian ship owners are determined to employ measures they consider fit to protect their ships and cargoes from the Somali pirates. At least one ship owner carries arms on board, according to DN, several others say this may be a future safety option.

“We have taken some measures but do not have armed guards on board. I’m not discounting we may have them soon,” says Olav Eikrem, technical director at bulk shipping company Frontline.

Nonetheless, onboard weapons are a controversial matter, as critics believe they encourage violent behavior.

Such safety measures are also highly expensive. Stolt Nielsen says it pays up to approximately one million dollars per month for its 150 vessels that travel in pirate areas.

“We have had several attempts that we have managed to deflect or stop due to armed guards, barbed wire and hosing the pirates down with hot water,” according to Mr. Nielsen.

Onboard weapons do not to deter the pirates, however. They seem fearless, confident that they “own” the seas.

“The Navy cannot stop us. How would they manage? We have more than 200 groups and we are growing all the time, said Somali pirate Mohammed Garaad in an interview with Lloyd’s List back in 2009.

The revered shipping paper subsequently named the pirate as the fourth most influential person in the shipping world.

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