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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Brits underestimate sea-going piracy, terror

That's what a report of the House of Commons Transportation Committee says, according to this:
The threat of seaborne militant attacks on the U.K. and areas of southern Iraq protected by coalition troops has been seriously underestimated by the U.K. government, a committee of lawmakers said Thursday.
Members of the House of Commons Transport Committee warned that too little attention had been paid to rising levels of maritime piracy and the potential for militants to seize control of vessels.
"Bold and extensive practical measures in the U.K. and overseas, in the Middle East and elsewhere, are required to lessen the risk. There is no room for complacency," said the group's report, published Thursday.
It said pirates had offered a "tempting and successful demonstration" to militants of the ease with which ships, including oil tankers, could be commandeered.
"Well organized and determined terrorists could take control of a ship and use it to achieve terrible ends," the report said.
The report said that in 2005 there had been 10 piracy attacks on merchant ships off the coasts of the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr and the Basra oil terminal.
Lawmakers said U.K. government officials had been largely unaware of the attacks. The "level of ignorance on the government's part is a matter of gravest concern," the report said.
Internationally, 650 ship crew members were taken hostage or kidnapped and 150 injured as the result of piracy last year, it said.
"Over the past decade, piracy has increased by 168%," said Gwyneth Dunwoody, a lawmaker for the governing Labour party.
On the other hand, the International Maritime Bureau reports piracy has declined in 2006 compared to a comparable period in 2005:
International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a group that monitors international shipping activities has said piracy on the high seas decreased worldwide for the first three months of 2006, compared with the year before.

There were 79 attacks reported from January to March, compared to 103 attacks last year, which IMB said is the lowest first quarter record in three years.

The London-based IMB said that sea pirate in Asia is also decreasing, but that it is too soon to say whether Asia’s shipping lines are safer. However, the bureau warned against drawing positive conclusions about the report too soon.
So, keep those conclusions in neutral until more evidence comes in...

A BBC piece on pirates, letting us know that it is not all Johnny Depp out there, here:
But who are these modern-day pirates? Are they anything like the movies?
"Colourful pirates don't exist. They're either well-organised gangs, making a lot of money out of it, or opportunistic thieves," says Ian Taylor, editor of Cargo Security International.

Their target might be those on board as much as the cargo, as the current trend is for pirates to seize crews and demand a ransom from their employers. Abducting a crew can yield a $200,000 ransom for a pirate gang in Somalia, says Paul Singer, of Securewest International.
StrategyPage notes:
The emergence of the Islamic Courts has not interfered with the pirates operating along the coast. Several ships, and their crews, are still being held for ransom, and pirate boats can still be seen moving along the coast.

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