Spain calls on EU to blockade Somali pirate ports

12th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spain will call on European Union to deploy military efforts on blockading three Somali ports to prevent kidnappings far from the coast.

Madrid – Spain wants EU naval forces to blockade three Somali ports used to launch pirate attacks against ships in the Indian Ocean, Defence Minister Carme Chacon said Wednesday.

She said Spain will call on European Union foreign and defence ministers to concentrate military efforts on blockading the ports at a meeting next Monday and Tuesday.

"We know that it is from these three ports that most, if not all, 'mother ships' used by pirates reach up to one thousand miles away from the coast -- as they did yesterday -- and carry out kidnappings far from the coast," she told RNE public radio.

Chacon also said the pirate gangs "have ties to sophisticated law firms in London," and she called for the international community to do more to track ransoms given to pirates to release hostages.

Several law firms in London, business capital of the world's maritime industry, have handled piracy kidnap and ransom cases in recent years.

They help ship owners deal with the legal aspects of paying a ransom and engage private security contractors to negotiate with pirates and carry out the ransom drop.

Pirates on Monday launched their longest range hijack attempt to date by opening fire on the Hong Kong-flagged oil tanker BW Lion 1,000 nautical miles east of Mogadishu, the EU naval force in the region said.

The next day pirates attacked the Danish-flagged container ship Nelle Maersk, also some 1,000 nautical miles east of the Somali capital.

Both ships escaped their attackers but the incidents demonstrated how beefed-up security off the Somalia coast appears to be leading pirates to move deeper into the Indian Ocean and its shipping lanes linking Asia and Europe.

Chacon said the attacks so far from the Somalia coast were a "giant step" for the pirates who she said were becoming bolder.

The pirates usually use "mother ships" to sail hundreds of miles out to sea and then attack in small skiffs, sometimes using high-grade weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades.

"These are not romantic pirates which some may be led to imagine, they are authentic criminal organisations which are focused on kidnappings of all types merchant ships, fishing trawlers, ships belonging to the World Food Programme," said Chacon.

The minister said Somali pirates were currently holding 12 boats and their crews hostage, including the Spanish trawler Alakrana which was seized with its 36 crew on 2 October, as well as vessels from Britain, China and Malta.

The pirates are demanding USD 4 four million (EUR 2.6 million) ransom as well as the release of two suspected pirates who were detained a few days after the trawler was seized and brought to Spain to face trial.

The Spanish government has ruled out freeing the two suspects but Chacon said they could serve their sentence back in Somalia if found guilty of any crime.

A lawyer for one of the two detained suspected pirates, Javier Diaz Aparicio, told Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo he was trying to reach a plea bargain agreement with Spanish prosecutors.

In an interview with news radio Cadena Ser on Tuesday, he suggested that his salary was being paid for by the interior ministry.

AFP / Expatica

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