Maersk Alabama repels 2nd pirate attack

(AP) – This time the Maersk Alabama was ready. This time it did what a multinational naval force couldn’t. Guards used guns and a sound blaster Wednesday to repel the second pirate attack on the U.S.-flagged ship in seven months.

But while the effort was hailed by one naval commander “as a great example of how merchant mariners can take pro-active action to prevent being attacked,” it highlighted a growing schism over how ships traveling pirate-infested waters should deal with the problem.

The U.N.’s maritime agency warns against putting arms on ships although that is increasingly the case amid unrelenting hijacking attempts by young and impoverished Somalis seeking multimillion-dollar paydays.

Despite an increased international flotilla of warships off the Horn of Africa, maritime figures indicate the number of ship boardings has remained about the same in the past year. And pirate attacks have spiked around the globe in 2009, according to a report released this week.

The number of attacks worldwide rose to 306 between January and September, surpassing the 293 incidents recorded throughout 2008, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur. Somali pirate activity off the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest sea lanes, accounted for at least 135 of the cases. There were 44 pirate boardings and hijackings by Somali pirates in 2008 and 42 so far this year, according to the bureau.

Poverty and hunger are driving the number of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean around Somalia, which has not had a central government since 1991 and is bloodied by war since then.

A member of a Spanish fishing trawler who was freed from pirate captivity with his crew on Tuesday after a $3.3 million ransom was paid, said his captors were emaciated men ranging in age from 20 to 40.

More ships traveling near Somalia are using armed guards but still make up only about 20 percent of the total, Murphy said. Many of those are American vessels. Nexus Consulting Group, a Viriginia-based company, said Wednesday that its armed maritime forces have thwarted at least eight reported pirate attacks.

Four suspected pirates in a skiff had approached the Maersk Alabama, firing with automatic weapons from about 300 yards away, a statement from the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain said. The ship responded with evasive maneuvers, small-arms fire and a Long Range Acoustic Device, which emits earsplitting tones.

A self-proclaimed pirate told The Associated Press from the Somali pirate town of Haradhere that colleagues at sea had called 2 hours after the attack began.

Kimberly Rochford, the wife of the Maersk Alabama’s captain, Paul Rochford of Barrington, R.I., told WBZ-AM radio in Boston that she is happy there were weapons on board this time.

“It probably surprised the pirates. They were probably shocked,” she said. “I’m really happy at least it didn’t turn out like the last time.”

Leave a Reply