New Cause For Concern

A recent incident could signal a worrying development in the tactics employed by Somali pirates, the IMB said earlier this month.

Suspected Somali pirates boarded a general cargo vessel but the attack was launched from what the IMB Director Captain Pottengal Mukundan said was a “mother ship,” a previously captured fishing vessel. Six crew members — two Danes and four Filipinos — were removed from their ship and transferred to the hijacked fishing vessel.

Pirates have traditionally used small, often high-powered motor vessels that had limited range and space for goods and hostages.
But the use of mother ships means pirates have greater range and mobility into the Indian Ocean, away from African and Middle Eastern coastal waters. The pirates also have more space for hostages in the mother ships.

“While the use of hijacked vessels as mother ships is not a new phenomenon, the abduction of crew members could signal a significant new development,” Mukundan said.

At least five large hijacked cargo ships and three fishing vessels have acted as mother ships in the past couple of months, he said. The four tankers and a general cargo vessel range from 5,000-72,000 tons.

More than 100 crew members from the hijacked cargo vessels are being forced to facilitate the attacks and in effect provide a human shield to potential intervention, the IMB said.

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