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Russian, Dutch warships in convoy with Dutch freighter brave Somalian pirates

By Adriana Stuijt     Dec 1, 2008 in Business
A windmill-laden Dutch freighter is braving the piracy-haunted sea lanes of the Gulf of Aden-- accompanied by a Russian and a Dutch frigate.
The Dutch-based owner of the freight company does not want his name in the paper, fearing reprisals.
"We are dealing with organised crime. These pirates do not hesitate to attack, and we still have to go past their lairs,' said the owner to a journalist of the local Nieuwsblad van het Noorden in the northerly university-town of Groningen.
"We have been trying for weeks to get help from the Dutch Navy - so the Russian Navy has now offered to escort us free of charge,' the owner of the small freighter said. "We won't have to pay for it. Meanwhile our government does nothing to protect us and even prohibits our mariners from carrying firearms on board to defend ourselves with,' he added. "Our minister of trade tells the Dutch to 'regain our Dutch East-India Company mentality ' by trading more, so how are we supposed to defend ourselves against pirates, with fire-hoses?' he asked.
Just this past Sunday, two pirate boats opened fire on a luxury cruise ship, the six-star Nautica as she sailed between Somalia and Yemen. Two small skiffs tried to intercept the cruise ship carries 690 passengers and 386 crew, was sailing past several groups of fishing boats. Captain Jurica Brajcic began evasive manoeuvres and managed to avert the attack.
Some ten Dutch freighters a week used to travel the Asia-Western European route through the Suez canal, but now take the much more costly Cape of Good Hope route around Africa instead to avoid the dangerous Somalian coastline.The Dutch ship owner however said he can't afford to take the longer route around Africa , he is just a small trader.
"It's much longer and my ship is leased per day. My contractor does not want to pay those extra costs,' he said.
After the Russians offered their help, the Dutch navy also suddenly promised to 'keep an eye' on the freighter with their 4.500 ton missile frigate the De Ruyter.
Russia confirms that the Neustrashimy is accompanying three merchant ships in convoy to thwart pirate attacks at the moment, also Danish freighters. The smaller ships are most at risk because they cannot get up to speed and can be entered by the pirates' high-speed boats. The Somalian pirates have hijacked about 40 ships this year, including a Ukrainian freighter loaded with 33 battle tanks destined for Kenya. http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0,,2-11-1447_2435517,00.html
Why not attack the pirates in their lairs?
A South African military strategist, Eeben Barlow, recently questioned the reluctance of foreign governments to engage the pirates directly in their lairs - the harbours of Somalia.
He pointed out that US and British warships, known as Task Force 150 (the international naval and air effort in the Gulf of Aden), have counter-piracy as part of their mission.
Piracy will escalate around all the African coastlines...
"But this mission is restricted in its scope as Task Force 150 has more serious matters to contend with. Some PMCs, along with a single independent Russian warship, also find themselves in this area engaged in protection and counter-piracy duties off these dangerous coasts. It is only a matter of time before this type of crime escalates off the coasts of West and Central Africa and yields like-wise valuable pickings to this scum of the sea."
He noted that the pirates now operate with impunity because they seem to be 'untouchable' inside their own harbours - and know they are: "They are joined by local criminal elements and fishermen who see the possibilities of making a quick million dollars. Their piracy is encouraged also by the shipping companies: they are only too keen to pay the large ransoms the pirates demand to secure the release of their vessels, crews and cargo."
He questioned whether some shipping companies really did want their ships back and also slammed foreign governments for not acting forcefully.
Is it politically-unacceptable to stop piracy?
"In the past, foreign navies destroyed the towns or villages the pirates use as bases. Apparently these days, this is no longer politically acceptable… The implication of this ludicrous statement is that it is politically unacceptable to stop piracy. He warned that as long as the large shipping companies continue to pay for the release of their vessels, by now totalling tens of millions of dollars, this perpetuates and encourages more piracy.' He asked: "How much of this money is passed on to radical terrorist groups?'
Barlow believes that a 'very simple strategy and a desire to implement it' are all that's needed to stop the Somalian pirates in their tracks - and at a fraction of the cost of the ransom and insurance costs.
"It does not require massive warships patrolling the area. Furthermore, the aim ought to be to prevent the ship from being taken – not to only do something once the ship has been taken.
"If it is politically acceptable for pirates to operate and commit crimes at sea, then surely it is politically acceptable for shipping companies to take whatever action they deem necessary to protect their crews, cargo and ships?"
He said companies and governments must however 'have a commitment to actually want to end piracy.
"The fight needs to be taken to the pirates instead of waiting for them to attack a ship...'
Old ships...
Barlow also felt that some shipping companies were using piracy as an excuse to dump their old vessels and then claim from the insurance companies.
This Sunday, two pirate boats opened fire on a luxury cruise ship, the six-star Nautica as she sailed between Somalia and Yemen. Two small skiffs tried to intercept the cruise ship carries 690 passengers and 386 crew, was sailing past several groups of fishing boats. Captain Jurica Brajcic began evasive manoeuvres and managed to avert the attack.
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