India has deployed a frigate-sized warship to petrol the Gulf of Aden, which has seen a spate of pirate activities by Somali pirates in recent times. The ship has been armed with helicopters and marine commandos with adequate firepower to thwart attempt by pirates to hijack Merchant ships for ransom.
Gulf of Aden is a natural water divide between the African state Somalia and Asian state Yemen and is a highly busy marine route leading to Suez Canal from Arabian Sea in Indian Ocean. It is a vital waterway for shipping, especially for gulf oil and about 11% of World’s Sea borne petroleum passes through Gulf of Aden on its way to Suez Canal or local refineries (like the one’s in India), making the waterway an integral part of world economy.
Because of this economic importance, the gulf has become an area of considerable pirate activities involving Somali pirates. As per the International Maritime Bureau, over two dozens actual or attempted attacks were reported in 2007. However unofficial reports say that at least 54 vessels were pirated in the last 12 months
Heavily armed Somali pirates captured an Iranian ship on 21st August’08, 9 crew members including three Indians were taken captive and locked up in the dingy engine room for 54-days, before Iran paid an unknown ransom to secure their release on 15th October’08. They were allowed only once in a day to get to the deck.
As per the report published in the Calcutta Telegraph dated 17th October’08, one of the crewmembers, Jiwan Kiran D’Souza, 31, returned home Bangalore and told the news reporters that during the 54-day captivity, they were given two slices of bread in the morning, a little rice in the afternoon and another two pieces of breads were all that they gave as food. He said, “They pointed their guns at our heads threatened to kill us (if ransom is not paid) and I lost all hopes of coming back home.”
On 15th September, the pirates in the Gulf, 185Km off the coast of Somalia, seized MT Stolt Valor, a 25000 ton Hong Kong chemical tanker. The crew comprising of 18 Indians, two Filipinos, one Russian and a Bangladeshi, were taken captive for ransom and the pirates have reportedly demanded $2.5 million. Negotiations are going on for the release of the vessel and the captives.
The Hong Kong Ship Owners Association has called for action against pirates in the region. It said that despite a United Nations resolution giving Navies a mandate to repress piracy, governments lacked the will to take action.
In the light of these happenings, the Indian Government has deployed the warship to guard against the piracy, as a sizeable portion of India’s external trade flows through this route. Two warships would work in turn for a month each.