Good Company

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

The US and modern pirates

Odd title, but this has some useful information on the US Navy and Coast Guard anti-piracy efforts.
"The number of reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia has increased alarmingly ... and is becoming increasingly common," an official said. "Most of the incidents have reportedly occurred at distances ranging up to 180 nautical miles off the Somali coast, and the reported information suggests a pattern of well-organized and coordinated activities."

The U.S. Navy is attacking the issue head-on. In an attempt to make the seas safer for commerce and to thwart terrorist activities, the Navy conducts maritime security operations in various parts of the world, officials said.

"The primary focus of (such operations) is preventing terrorists from using the seas as a venue from which to launch an attack or to move people, weapons or other material that support their efforts," Naval Forces Central Command spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Breslau said. But "our maritime task forces are always prepared to respond to mariners in distress, whether they are under attack by pirates, experience engineering causalities, or have medical emergencies."

Most recently, the Navy captured a suspected pirate vessel in the Indian Ocean about 54 miles off the coast of Somalia and detained 10 alleged pirates Jan. 21.

Several other incidents of piracy aimed at international shipping off the Somali coast have been reported over the past year, including an attack on a Western cruise ship in November and a Jan. 22 incident in which pirates reportedly fired on a commercial cargo ship before hijacking the vessel. The pirates are currently demanding ransom for the release of the 20 crewmembers and the vessel, International Maritime Bureau officials said.

Pirates have even hijacked humanitarian aid vessels, such as a ship loaded with foodstuff headed to Somalia under the auspices of the U.N. World Food Program, IMO officials said.

"In today's world, ship safety and security are inseparable. Events have made us all aware of the vulnerability of transport networks and the potential they hold to be either the targets or the instruments of terror," IMO officials said.

Even though acts of piracy are not common in American waters, the U.S. Coast Guard is vigilant in preventing them from becoming so. Aside from combating drug trafficking and protecting U.S. ports and marine transportation system from terrorism, Coast Guard officials emphasize the importance of stopping the spread of piracy into American waters to protect U.S. citizens and the flow of commerce.

"By its very definition, piracy is about stealing. Our job is law enforcement," Dan Tremper, a Coast Guard spokesman, said. "We're always on patrol -- 24/7. We've got sharp eyes on the water with the goal of protecting the American people and our economic interests."
Well, it's nice to read that the "sea services" are recognizing the problem exists.

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