Two ship seizures in the Indian Ocean in recent days appear to indicate that pirates have broadened their focus beyond the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden.
‘Pirates hijacked two chemical tankers: the Bahamian-flagged, Norwegian-owned vessel Bowasir March 25 and the Panamanian-flagged, Greek-owned Nipayia March 26, a Navy spokesman confirmed. Bowasir and its 23-member crew were operating more than 380 nautical miles southeast of Kismayo, Somalia. Nipayia and its 19 merchant mariners were pirated 490 nautical miles east of Mogadishu, the official said. The seizures were the farthest yet from the Gulf of Aden, where the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet and the international community stepped up patrols after piracy soared last year. “This appears to be a new round of attacks well off the east coast of Somalia vs. in the Gulf of Aden where we had seen the majority of attacks last year and in 2009 to date,” the official said. The latest hijackings expand the pirates’ operating area, creating what the official called “a monumental challenge” to those working to prevent piracy. “To put the challenge into geographic perspective, the area involved off the coast of Somalia and Kenya as well as the Gulf of Aden equals more than 1.1 million square miles,” he said. “That is roughly four times the size of the U.S. state of Texas or the size of the Mediterranean and Red Seas combined.”