A taste of their own medicine is a very good thing. The Navy should be handling these Islamic attacks.
Private guards return fire to help US container ship evade hijack, while pirate says captain of a seized vessel is dead
Somali pirates attacked the container ship Maersk Alabama today for the second time in seven months. Private guards on board the US-flagged ship repelled the attack with gunfire and a high-decibel noise device.
A US surveillance plane was monitoring the ship as it continued to its destination, Mombasa in Kenya, while a pirate said the captain of a chemical tanker, the Theresa, hijacked on Monday with 28 North Korean crew had died of his wounds.
Pirates hijacked the Maersk Alabama last April and took ship captain Richard Phillips hostage, holding him at gunpoint in a lifeboat for five days. Navy Seal sharpshooters freed Phillips while killing three pirates in a night-time attack.
Four pirates in a skiff attacked the ship again today at about 6.30am local time, opening fire with automatic weapons from about 300 yards away, a statement from the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain said. A security team repelled the attack by using evasive manoeuvres, small-arms fire and a Long Range Acoustic Device, which can beam earsplitting alarm tones.
Vice Admiral Bill Gortney of the US naval forces central command said the Maersk Alabama had followed the maritime industry's best practices in having a security team on board. "This is a great example of how merchant mariners can take proactive action to prevent being attacked and why we recommend that ships follow industry best practices if they're in high-risk areas," he said in a statement.
Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the Chatham House thinktank in London, said the international maritime community was solidly against armed guards, but that American ships have taken a different line.
"Shipping companies are still pretty much overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of armed guards," he said. "Lots of private security companies employ people who don't have maritime experience. Also, there's the idea that it's the responsibility of states and navies to provide security. I would think it's a step backward if we start privatising security of the shipping trade."
A pirate who gave his name as Abdi Nor told the Associated Press from the Somali town of Haradhere that colleagues at sea had called at about 9am – two hours after the attack. "They told us that they got in trouble with an American ship, then we lost them. We have been trying to locate them since."
A US Navy P-3 surveillance aircraft "is monitoring Maersk Alabama and has good voice communication with the vessel," said Lieutenant Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the 5th Fleet in Bahrain. "Everything is safe and secure and Maersk Alabama is proceeding to their intended destination," he said.