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wait, what? Seriously?
By Maud van Gaal
April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Dutch marines foiled an attempted pirate raid in the Gulf of Aden even as a Belgian ship was seized in the Indian Ocean, adding to evidence of a shift in pirate activity away from waters subject to naval patrols.
Pirates captured the Belgian vessel with 10 crew on board north of the Seychelles Islands today, Lieutenant Commander Alexandre Fernandes, a spokesman for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said by phone.
The Belgian ship, the "Pompei", is located almost 1,300 nautical miles from NATO’s operating area. “But on scene we have the European Maritime Force,” Fernandes said. They are “tracking the situation.”
Atalanta, the European Union’s anti-piracy operation, said April 10 that it is stepping up air patrols in the Indian Ocean as pirates refocus their activities away from the Gulf of Aden amid heavy patrols by international forces.
The Belgian ship, owned by Dredging Environmental & Marine Engineering NV and Jan de Nul Groep NV, sent out a first alarm signal at 5:30 a.m. local time in Belgium, said Peter Mertens, a spokesman of the Belgian Crisis Centre. At that time, it was 200 kilometers north of the Seychelles, he said.
At least 80 vessels have been attacked in the waters around the Horn of Africa since the start of the year, 19 of them seized by brigands using rocket launchers and automatic weapons, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Yet the legal systems in many ship operators’ nations lack the necessary laws for dealing with pirates.
Dutch marines had to release seven Somalis suspected of piracy who were discovered aboard a Yemeni fishing vessel in the Gulf of Aden today because the Netherlands doesn’t have jurisdiction to arrest and detain them in this case, Fernandes said. The Dutch navy freed 20 hostages aboard the Yemeni vessel.
The pirate suspects were found after the Handytankers Magic, a tanker sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands, sent out a distress signal. The Dutch frigate De Zeven Provincien, dispatched by NATO to investigate, found one fishing dhow and a small skiff. Dutch marines boarded the dhow and discovered the hostages and the armed Somali nationals.
The dhow was seized April 16, since when it had been used as a “mother ship,” Fernandes said. The skiff was used for approaching and boarding other vessels and an attempt had been made to gain access to Handytankers Magic. It “managed to escape using maneuver and speed,” Fernandes said.
The Dutch Ministry of Defense said there were “around 25” people on board the Yemeni dhow, of whom nine were suspected pirates, according to a statement on the ministry’s Web site.
Between 22,000 and 24,000 ships sail through the Gulf of Aden each year, most of them also navigating Egypt’s Suez Canal to the north to travel between Europe and Asia.