With the ending of this year's monsoon season the British Navy reinforces their warning to seafarers to beware pirates.
Attacks by ‘pirate action groups’ trying to hijack merchant shipping off the Horn of Africa are expected to increase, which is the business end of the Royal Navy’s efforts to curb the scourge of modern-day piracy and wider maritime crime in the region – and it’s about to get busier. To that end, a small, specialist Royal Navy team based in Dubai has reinforced its efforts to warn mariners of the dangers posed.
The UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), based in Dubai, comprises nine Royal Navy personnel plus one merchant navy, advises merchant shipping of the principal threats, which stretches of ocean to avoid, and liaises between civilian shipping and the international force of warship patrolling ‘Pirate Alley’ (between Somalia and Yemen) and the wider Indian Ocean.
The concerted effort by the navies of the world to clamp down on the pirate menace – NATO, the EU and the 27-nation Combined Maritime Forces are all committed to the effort – as well as precautions taken by merchantmen (three out of four British or UK-flagged passing through the region now carry armed security teams) have seen the number of attacks drastically fall.
Last year 131 attempts were made to seize ships – but the pirates only succeeded in 23 instances. So far in 2012, there have been 54 hijack attempts. Only six boats have been taken over, with five still in the hands of pirates. In all, five merchant ships and seven fishing vessels/dhows with some 200 crew as hostages are currently being held for ransom.
To ensure more do not fall victim, the UKMTO sends out a flood of information to shipping in the region, its staff brief merchant ships in harbours such as Jebel Ali – the largest port in the Middle East – and holds regular conferences for merchant shipping leaders and mariners.