Somali pirates seize four ships in the Gulf of Aden

David Clarke

David Clarke

NAIROBI - Somali pirates seized four ships in the Gulf of Aden on the same day the United Nations Security Council authorised countries to pursue the gunmen on land.

A Kenyan maritime group said pirates hijacked an Indonesian tugboat, a Turkish cargo ship, a Chinese fishing vessel and a yacht on Tuesday.

Rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia this year has earned gunmen millions of dollars in ransom, hiked shipping insurance costs and sent foreign navies rushing to patrol shipping lanes off the Horn of Africa nation.

The seizures have prompted some of the world's biggest shipping firms to switch routes from the Suez Canal and send cargo vessels around southern Africa instead - which could push up the cost of commodities and manufactured goods.

While warships from several nations are patrolling the seas off Somalia and escorting ships, analysts say the problem must be tackled on land as well for any lasting solution.

The resolution passed by the 15-nation Security Council on Tuesday said states "may undertake all necessary measures in Somali, including in its airspace", to stop the pirates.

Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance programme in Kenya said yesterday that Chinese fishing vessel Zhenhua-4 with 30 Chinese crew and a yacht with two on board had been seized off Yemen a day earlier. An Indonesian tugboat used by French oil company Total and a 100-metre cargo ship belonging to an Istanbul shipping company were also taken on Tuesday.

The weak Somali government says it does not have the resources to tackle the buccaneers. The administration controls only the capital Mogadishu and the seat of parliament, Baidoa, while pirates are mostly based in the northern Puntland region.

Mwangura said 19 ships and nearly 400 crew were being held in pirate hideouts along the Somali coast, including a Saudi supertanker with two million barrels of oil and a Ukrainian cargo ship with 33 tanks. - Reuters