Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pirates on the High Seas

Capture of the three-masted French yacht/luxury cruise ship (32 staterooms) Le Ponant by Somali pirates triggered quick responses by France even though the pirates only wanted ransom money and were operating in accordance with a "good conduct" guide. The pirates were local militia­men who borrowed two speedboats from local fishermen to defend the coast and do some fishing. First they captured a Yemeni trawler and made it their base ship. Then they captured the luxury sailing vessel. A ransom of two million dollars was agreed-upon ($50 for each villager and $11 to ­20,000 per pirate) but French Special Forces swooped in and captured six men as they tried to escape in a 4x4. They soon appeared in Paris.

The British Foreign Office advised the Royal Navy not to detain any pirates: breaches of their human rights might be involved because, if sent back to Somalia, beheadings might await them. Besides, detained pirates might claim asylum in Great Britain. The Foreign Office's advice? "The main thing is to ensure that any incident is resolved peacefully."
The Spanish tuna boat Playa de Bakio was seized by four Somali pirates while fishing 250 miles offthe Somalia coast. The captain was telling folks at home that they were all right when the handset was snatched from his hand by a pirate who then told listeners that he was a member of the Somalia militia and they wanted "money."

Again off Somalia, the food-carrying Dubai-flagged Al-Knaleet was taken by pirates. Somali troops stormed the ship and arrested seven pirates. (They faced the death penalty but got life sentences.) Next on the military's list of objectives was the Playa de Bakio.
A vessel from the United Arab Emirates unloaded at least forty Toyota sport utilities, a vehicle often equipped with heavy weapons and converted into "technicals," the Somalia version of a tank. Rumors had it that the vehicles may have been funded by the CIA and mining exploration rights may somehow be involved.

Elsewhere, pirates attacked the Thai tanker Batravarin 2 in Malaysian waters and managed to steal seafarers' money before escaping. And a South Korean fishing boat and a South Korean bulker were attacked in the Gulf of Aden; two of 13 attacks there so far this year. The bulker was pep­pered by machine gun fire and rocket propelled grenades for about forty minutes. Also attacked in the Gulf was the large Japanese tanker Takayam, which survived a rocket attack by a single small boat. The tanker's master suffered an injury during the attack.

A New Zealand-designed system using suction devices is being used to hold large merchant ships in place under container cranes at the Southern Omani port of Salalah. The system reduces the vertical movements of all ships due to monsoon surges from three meters to between so­100 millimeters and this expedites loading and unloading of containers as well as easing passage of personnel from ship to shore and back.

The master of the cruise ship Mona Lisa wanted to give his passengers, mostly elderly Germans, the opportunity to take close up photos of the Irben lighthouse boldly sticking up in the Baltic 11 miles off the Latvian coast. He succeeded but ran the ship aground on a sand bar with the light conveniently only a ship length away.
At Port Stephens in Australia, people who cut down or poison their neighbor's trees in order to improve a view may find that local authorities respond by piling empty containers so as to block their improved sea view.