India shipping firms seek new anti-pirate strategy

Pirates hijacked nine dhows that were sailing to the UAE last month. (EB FILE)

Pirates have released another Indian dhow, bringing the total number of released vessels to five. Pirates had hijacked nine dhows that were sailing from Somalia to the UAE last month. At least 95 Indian sailors were abducted by Somali pirates.

Meanwhile alarmed by a big jump in pirate attacks, India's shipping industry says it needs a new security strategy to safeguard vessels in the dangerous waters off Somalia's lawless coast.

The attacks, targeting one of the world's busiest maritime trade routes, were the latest in a string on Indian vessels in which dhows – slow-moving, mechanised boats – have been among the most vulnerable.

"[Dhow] piracy is becoming a major problem," said Captain Harish Khatri, India's Deputy Director- General of Shipping who attended an anti-piracy conference last week in Mumbai. "We need a new strategy to tackle it," he said at the conference, which was organised by the seafarers' unions and drew shipowners, government officials, maritime agencies and security intelligence experts.

In the latest incident in which least 121 Indian sailors were captured – 26 were subsequently released – all were dhows.

India, whose merchant navy has frequently been attacked off the coast of conflict-torn impoverished Somalia, has a warship in Gulf of Aden as part of global efforts to tackle piracy in one of the world's riskiest shipping routes.

But "the Somalian coast is [still] the pirates' own backyard", said Jim Mainstone, Head of Intelligence of UK-based Gray Page, a maritime investigating agency.

In 2009, pirates attacked 214 vessels and held 58 Indians hostage. India's navy says its elite, anti-piracy marine commando group has thwarted 17 pirate attacks since 2008.


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