Pirates seize Iranian fishing boat off Somalia

Somali pirates have hijacked an Iranian fishing boat and taken it to a port in the north of the country, a watchdog group said Wednesday.

The ocean-going dhow with a crew of up to 20 was seized by pirates off Qandala in the semi-autonomous Puntland region on Tuesday, said John Steed, regional manager for Oceans Beyond Piracy, a US-based non-profit group.

Steed said the latest hijacking “is part of a trend” that has seen Somali piracy erupt again after lying dormant for years.

There have been at least eight attacks in recent months and three successful hijackings.

Last week the Indian navy thwarted an attempted hijacking, chasing away at least three motorised skiffs that had swarmed a cargo vessel off Somalia’s northeast.

Lawlessness and lack of job opportunities in Somalia, combined with the waning attention of international anti-piracy patrols and cost-cutting by a shipping industry eager to save money by sailing more slowly and without armed guards, has given piracy new life.

“The risk is very high if a vessel is not carrying an armed security team and following best maritime practice,” Steed said.

Somali pirates began staging attacks in 2005, seriously disrupting a major international shipping route and costing the global economy billions of dollars a year.

At the peak of the piracy crisis in January 2011, 736 hostages and 32 boats were held.  DM


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