Dubai: Negotiations are underway on placing private armed security teams aboard ships passing through the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden (known in Arabic as Bab al Mandab), as leading regional supertanker and container ship operators reveal details of hijack attempts on their vessels.
‘Mohammad Souri, Chairman and Managing Director of the National Iranian Tanker Company, speaking during the opening session of the Seatrade Middle East Maritime conference taking place in Dubai, has revealed that five of his company’s ships have been chased and threatened but had escaped by outrunning the Somali pirates in their fast attack boats. At the same conference, Saleh Al Shamekh, President Oil and Gas of the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (NSCSA), said some of his company’s vessels had also come under attack off the Somali coast but had escaped, in one case with the protection of an Indian Navy warship. When all ships currently on order are delivered, NSCSA will have a combine fleet of 52 ships. Al Shamekh said his company, like others, had ordered increased speeds for vessels and to stay further away from the Somali coast. In some cases, however, they are diverting vessels away from Bab al Mandab, which leads to the Suez Canal and the shortest route to Europe, in favour of the longer Cape of Good Hope route. Jorn Hinge, Chief Operating Officer of United Arab Shipping Company (UASC), also revealed two of their container ships had been attacked by the pirates without success. He spoke of the “total lawlessness” of Somali where the chance of pirates being caught was small while the rewards in terms of ransom were huge. UASC is the largest ocean carrier of dry cargo to the Middle East and jointly owned by Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.