Friday, November 21, 2008
An anti-piracy watchdog group on Thursday welcomed an Indian warship’s destruction of a suspected pirate vessel in waters off Somalia, where hijackings have become increasingly violent and the hijackers increasingly bold. In a rare victory in the sea war against Somali pirates, the Indian navy’s INS Tabar sank a suspected pirate “mother ship” in the Gulf of Aden and chased two attack boats on Tuesday. Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur said he was heartened by the Tabar’s success. “It’s about time that such a forceful action is taken. It’s an action that everybody is waiting for,” Choong said. “If all warships do this, it will be a strong deterrent. But if it’s just a rare case, then it won’t work” to control the unprecedented level of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, he said. The pirates have stunned the maritime community with their brazen attacks, highlighted by last week’s hijacking of a Saudi-owned supertanker loaded with $100 million worth of crude oil.
INS Tabar (F44)A spokesman for Vela International Marine Ltd., the tanker’s owner, said the company “took the decision to maintain no comment” on issues concerning the tanker, including the ransom demanded for release of the vessel and the 25-member crew. Spokesman Mihir Sapru said he could neither “deny nor confirm” that negotiations between the pirates and the oil tanker’s owners are under way. The Indian navy said the Tabar, operating off the coast of Oman, stopped the ship because it appeared similar to a pirate vessel mentioned in numerous piracy bulletins. It said the pirates fired at the Tabar after the officers asked it to stop so they could search it. Indian forces fired back, sparking fires and a series of onboard blasts — possibly caused by exploding ammunition — which destroyed the ship. Since the beginning of the year, 95 ships have been attacked in the Gulf of Aden. Of those, 39 were successfully hijacked. Eight were hijacked in the last two weeks. Besides India, other countries including the U.S. and NATO have warships patrolling the area. But attacks have continued off Somalia, which is caught up in an Islamic insurgency and has had no functioning government since 1991.