No stopping them

THE first successful pirate attack of 2011 could scarcely have come more promptly. In the early afternoon of January 1st, monitors at the Maritime Security Centre-Horn of Africa, based in Northwood near London, picked up distress signals from the MV Blida.

Somali pirates had hijacked the Greek-operated, Algerian-flagged 20,586-tonne bulk carrier, its crew of 27 (mainly Algerian and Ukrainian) and its cargo of clinker. The ship was some 150 nautical miles south-east of the Omani port of Salalah and heading for Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Four days later the Blida’s Ukrainian captain sent word that the ship was berthed off the Somali coast near the pirate lair of Garacad. The crew, he said, was safe and unharmed but the pirates had yet to start haggling with the owners over the ransom.

The Northwood centre was established in late 2008 as part of Operation Atalanta, a European Union (EU) naval initiative against Somali piracy. It works with the Royal Navy’s UK Maritime Trade Operations office in Dubai as a reporting hub for pirate activity and as a communications hub for the multinational naval forces in the area. The seizure of theBlida was the fourth attack on New Year’s Day; the other three were unsuccessful, thanks to evasive action and other protective measures.


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