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GULF OF ADEN: U.S. Navy warns merchant ships to be ready for Somali pirates

April 7, 2009 |  9:18 am


The U.S. Navy in Bahrain is renewing its warning to merchant-ship captains to be prepared for attack by Somali pirates.

Although there is a multi-national task force patrolling the Gulf of Aden to thwart pirates, the area is vast, and the pirates are now striking farther out to sea.

Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, in an updated special maritime message issued this week, told merchant mariners to have an  antipiracy plan before they sail.

Gortney avoided any suggestion that merchant ships should hire armed guards to battle the sometimes heavily armed pirates.

Instead, he highlighted three successful tactics that stopped short of gunfire: a Panamanian-flagged ship that used evasive maneuvers and fire hoses to thwart pirates; a ship that fired flares at the pirates; and a ship that rigged barbed wire along its sides to prevent pirates from boarding.

In all three cases, the ships were prepared in advance. "Piracy is a problem that starts ashore," Gortney said.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Greek Navy commando detains a speedboat with suspected Somali pirates after a recent failed attack on a Norwegian cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden. Credit: Greek Navy / Associated Press