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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pirates launch fierce assault on another US cargo vessel

Dubai: Pirates have used rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons to attack another US merchant ship off the coast of Somalia, the BBC reports. The pirates damaged the Liberty Sun, which was carrying a cargo of food aid, but were not able to board it. The ship asked for assistance from the American warship involved in the rescue of a US captain seized last week.
The attack was particularly worrying since, as previously reported on this site, pirates have vowed to avenge the deaths of those killed in recent rescue operations by US and French forces. Four more vessels have been seized by Somali pirates over the past two days, including a 35,000dwt bulk carrier, a 7,345dwt general cargo ship and two fishing vessels.  
So far this year, there have been around 80 pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia as a result of which some 300 seafarers and 18 ships are being held.
Last week’s hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, on charter to the US Government and carrying aid cargoes bound for Africa, and holding of her captain for five days in a lifeboat, has catapulted the piracy issue to the very top of world news. At a Monday press conference in Washington, President Obama declared his resolve to halt the rise of piracy in the region. But analysts point out that unlike other countries which have helped to bring marine piracy under control, including Malaysia and Thailand, Somalia is virtually lawless and has no functioning central government.
Meanwhile, the spate of attacks has caused kidnap and ransom (K&R) insurance premiums to soar. Aon Risk Services, a provider of these specialist policies, warned the other day that premiums had already increased ten-fold, notably for policies covering the Gulf of Aden. Insurance source believe premiums will go yet higher. Such insurance, which could mean a $30,000 bill to provide $3m-worth of cover for each voyage through the troubled area,covers risks including consultancy and negotiation fees, the ransom itself and its delivery, medical care and subsequent counselling.  [15/04/09]