Empire of Piracy in the Gulf of Aden [Archives:2008/1198/Local News]

October 13 2008

Mohammed Al-Asaadi
The Media Line

While the international community begins asking questions about the high level of piracy in the waters off Somalia, close-by Yemen on the other side of the Gulf of Aden is taking the lead in tackling the scourge of the seas.

SANA'A, Oct. 10 – Vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden remain vulnerable to interception by pirates, which poses a serious threat to international maritime security.

In the first three weeks of September at least eight incidents of piracy took place in the Gulf of Aden and dozens of crewmen were taken hostage.

On September 21 four pirates in three speedboats boarded a bulk carrier, hijacking the ship and taking hostage 19 crewmembers. Owners are unable to contact the ship, according to the daily updates from the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB).

The IMB reported that about 66 crewmen of different nationalities have been taken hostage and their vessels hijacked by Somali pirates in three weeks. In addition, four piracy attempts were averted as a result of immediate action by crewmembers and/or escorting coalition warships.

Officials in Somalia have confirmed that 10 ships are still being held by Somali pirates, who attack vessels on the northern Somali coast of the Gulf of Aden and in the Arabian Sea.

Pirates use speedboats and fire automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) in their attempts to board and hijack vessels, according to the IMB piracy report. Once the attack is successful and the vessel hijacked, the pirates sail towards the Somali coast and thereafter demand ransom for the release of the vessel and crew.

The prevalence of Somali piracy in the Gulf of Aden directly affects Yemen from the security and economic perspectives. Yemeni authorities have reacted to the phenomenon, though the interim federal government in Somalia does not have the capacity to do anything.

The Yemen government in early September decided to deploy 1,000 soldiers along with 16 military boats in the Gulf of Aden and its territorial waters. It is also conducting discussions with International Coalition Forces in the Horn of Africa to coordinate efforts and provide security for the maritime route.

In addition, Yemen has announced it is establishing three regional centers to counter piracy in Aden, in Mukalla on the Gulf of Aden and in Hodeidah on the Red Sea. The centers are expected to provide technical and security assistance to the ships passing through.

The head of the Coastguard Authority in Yemen, Ali Rasa'e, told The Media Line (TML) that these measures by the government were just proposals.

“Nothing has been put into action so far