THE CHAIN LOCKER
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ENRICA LEXIE under Indian arrest - click photo to go to BBC story
Another step has been taken in the the ENRICA LEXIE episode, as the Supreme Court has decided that the ship can depart Indian waters. Italy has given assurances that any crew members, and the ship itself, will be made available to Indian authorities as and when they may require them. Click the photo at left for the BBC story, and see another story from Deccan Herald, and also from Economic Times. And finally, for another slant from the victims' point of view, see this article from Asian Age

In good news for some captive seafarers: another Italian ship, the ENRICO LEVOLI, which had been hijacked about four months ago, has been ransomed and released. This story from Safety4Sea gives an eyewitness account from one victim. As in another similar case (click "Piracy Survivor Alex" in Categories on the right side of the page) a terrifying moment for the victims came right after the ransom was paid - when the hostages wondered whether they'd be released, or killed - now that the pirates no longer needed them alive. However, all ended well and the men are going home to their families. 

I was interested to note that in the ENRICO LEVOLI case the crew might have been saved from capture if they'd been able to mount some resistance to delay the pirate takeover. A Turkish helicopter, dispatched in response to the Captain's distress call, arrived on scene just twenty minutes after the hijackers took control of the ship. 

Maritime Connector has an interesting article about evolving tactics among Somalian pirates. After a period during which they used captured vessels as mother ships, the pirates are beginning to go back to using dhows. Captured vessels are well-known and more easily tracked, especially as the world's navies intensify their efforts in the region. But a dhow, like thousands of other dhows used by local people for fishing and transport, can provide obscurity through sheer ubiquity. Among so many dhows, which one is the pirate? Guerrilla warfare on the sea - it was effective in Vietnam, as I can testify.

Tanker Operator gives a good rundown of piracy hotspots worldwide, including Somalia, Nigeria, and Southeast Asia. Tactics vary between regions. For instance, recently a tug was hijacked in the South China Sea, the crew robbed and set adrift, and the containers on the barge the tug was towing were then opened and rifled for goods. This is a common tactic in that region. In Nigeria, by contrast, robbery or kidnapping are more usual. And we know that Somalian pirates usually take control of the ship and crew. 

Not fun in any case. And piracy seems to be gaining momentum - often driven (at least in the case of African piracy) by social disintegration and poverty in the countries the pirates call home. Nothing excuses pirate violence, which is also on the increase - but a neglected, uncultivated field will grow weeds. . . And we know that military force hasn't stemmed the tide.

Many of us see the piracy problem from a distance - but you may be sailing through affected waters right now, or know someone who is! Please comment with your point of view: on defensive tactics, causes, remedies, responses - we want to know what you think!