March 10, 2010 in Nation/World

Pirates swarm waters, but ‘aargh’ heard a lot

Tony Perry Los Angeles Times

MANAMA, Bahrain – Although pirates last year made many more attempts to board ships in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia, the number of successful seizures was about the same as in 2008, according to the U.S.-organized multinational maritime force here.

The figures suggest that new “defensive driving” tactics adopted by many commercial shipping companies are helping ward off attackers, naval officials said.

There were 198 attempts at piracy in the vast region last year, a 62 percent increase over 2008, but only 44 attempts were successful. In 2008, there were 122 attempts and 42 successful acts of piracy.

Last year, an industry group developed a list of “best practices” for ships in pirate-infested waters: placement of physical barriers and razor wire to repel boarders, removal of overboard ladders, use of fire hoses and a planned zig-zag method of navigation when pirates approach.

“Believe it or not, there are still merchant ships out there that are not following the ‘best practices,’ including not having a lookout,” said British Royal Navy Commodore Tim Lowe, deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces.

The force includes ships from two dozen countries, including the United States, while NATO and the European Union have also organized task forces. China, Iran, Malaysia and India have independently sent ships to thwart pirates.

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