Brazen Somali Pirates Operating Almost Within Sight of India

Feb 21, 2011 12:00 AM
A Live Piracy Report from the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) indicates that Somali pirates are brazenly operating less than 30 miles off the coast of India. On Wednesday afternoon (local time), three skiffs (holding 6-8 persons) each sped toward a transiting tanker at 20º 53.2• N, 069º 39.1• E , only to desist after the embarked maritime security team fired warning shots.
Depending on which of three definitions of cable you subscribe to, the skiffs approached within 1824 to 2160 feet of the tanker, before heading for an apparent mother ship (a radar contact, not transmitting an AIS signal, 17 NM ahead of the tanker). Small arms, but no ladders were noted onboard the skiffs. The PRC placed the attempt about 40 NM south of Porbandar, India. My fiddling with Google Earth puts the incident at around 27 NM off the closest part of the Indian coast. Consistent with its normal practice, the PRC did not identify the tanker. Other reporting identifies her as the NS Century, a Russian-owned, Liberian-flagged aframax built in 2006.
Technically, there have been two reported piratical attempts further east—against a container ship at 09º 25' N, 073º 02' E on January 28th and against a tanker at 10º 00.1' N, 070º 59.4' E on February 5th. As these incidents were further south, they well off the Indian mainland, however, as a result to easterly curvature of the coast line (although the January 28th attempt was less than 60 NM from Indian islands to the northwest and northeast).
If the pirates attack about 15 NM closer to the coast, we will no longer be talking about piracy in the international law sense (as defined in Article 101 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea). Instead the offense would be what the PRC calls "armed robbery against ships" and a matter solely for the Indian legal system.
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