Aussie navy thwart Somali pirates, Brits build pirate radar and the Turkish military get in on the action

The Taiwan News today reports that on September 20 Australian frigate HMAS Toowoomba used a rocket propelled grenade launcher to deter an attack on a Portuguese vessel by Somali pirates. Although this story was only published online this morning by Bloomberg, I’m surprised that by early afternoon no major media outlet has picked the story up yet.

The story, apparently confirmed by an Australian Defence Force fax, has all the qualities of a good yarn — heroic Australian sailors, dastardly Somali pirates, poor defenceless European ship and some serious weaponry on both sides.

I guess the key problem with it is timeliness as the attack happened over a week ago, but I would still have expected the ABC to pick up the story by now.

All systems are go in the Gulf of Aden this week with the Turkish military on UN patrol taking out a skiff before it could attack some ships bearing the flags of Panama.

Clearly the Panama flag is like a target symbol for pirates with the BBC reporting Friday that another ship from Panama was boarded near Mogadishu and the Syrian captain shot dead. It’s worth checking out their coverage for the interactive pirate map of the Somali coast and surrounds.

The Turks captured seven pirates and released this photograph to show the NATO patrols are working:

Turks capture Somali pirates

But not everyone is a fan of the hardline approach the Turkish military have embodied in the region. This image of the not very scary looking t-shirt wearing pirates juxtaposed with Turkish naval forces in commando gear has enraged French activists.

US military news site Stars and Stripes has outlined the success of the NATO anti-pirate patrols and training, saying efforts have paid off this year:

Successful pirate attacks are also down for the year, even though the total number of pirate incidents has increased.

As of Wednesday there had been 142 incidents in the region this year, and 28 of those have been successful ship takeovers. Last year, there were 122 piracy incidents, with 42 of them successful.

Sky News also reports that the anti-piracy front are succeeding, mentioning the internationally recommended transit corridor that runs through the middle of the Gulf of Aden — where most ships are attacked by pirates. This is the first time I’ve seen a mention of the corridor in the media since it was created back in February.

The NATO patrol spin team are clearly pushing the use of the corridor as a success — and who can blame them? It’s much easier to protect ships from pirates if they’re all together and this is the busiest shipping route on the planet we’re talking about.

Sky News says:

Anti-piracy commanders say the drop in the number of hijackings is evidence their strategy is working.

Royal Navy Captain Keith Blount, the chief of staff on board the USS Anzio believed the patrols were working.

“Conditions have been perfect for pirate attacks in recent weeks yet no ships have been successfully taken despite a number of attempts,” he said.

But this success hasn’t convinced the Indian government, The Journal of Commerce reported India’s Shipping Ministry ordered their vessels stay out of the Gulf unless escorted by the Indian navy.

But the motherland is apparently about to come through with some technological goods. I don’t know how reliable this source is given the dodgy basic html format, but The East African online is reporting the British military has developed and is set to roll out a radar that can pick up much smaller vessels than previously radars could.

This would make it easier to detect pirates who often use speed boats operating relatively short distances from a “mother ship”.

The East African say the story is from the London Times, but I couldn’t find it. Instead though I found this article, it’s a couple of weeks old but very interesting on detailing the EU’s increased counter-piracy measures.

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