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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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U.S. Learning From Past Pirate Attacks

November 18, 2009 - 12:13 PM | by: Amy Kellogg

Four suspected pirates attacked the Maersk Alabama on Wednesday off the coast of Somalia, but this time the ship escaped hijacking by firing small arms and blasting noise from large circular speakers.

When the Maersk was taken by Somali pirates back in April, there was no such security detail.

Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, praised the change in tactics saying “Due to Maersk Alabama following the maritime industry’s best practices such as embarking security teams, the ship was able to prevent being successfully attacked by pirates.”

That’s a big change in tactic, and one that is much more readily embraced by Americans.  Europeans generally feel it is the responsibility of navies to protect merchants ships and are hesitant to employ armed guards aboard ships.

And pretty much everyone knows that the security situation off the coast of Somalia won’t change until law and order is restored to that country.

Depsite the fact that piracy remains a threat to ships in the region, and the proof is in the details (11 ships are currently hostages of Somali pirates and 241 merchant mariners are being held), a European ship owner tells Fox News that actually the security situation in the Gulf of Aden itself is recently vastly improved due to the presence of ships from so many navies down there.

This ship owner says if vessels stay within the “secure zone” and utilize navies for a sort of escort through the Gulf they are likely to be safe if they follow sound rules of practice.

It is the wider Somali basin that is extremely risky and he says you really need to be more than 1000 nautical miles away from the coastline to be safe.  The pirates have expanded their reach and have been edging closer to the Seychelles to seek prey.

A British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler, were captured by Somali pirates on October 23rd and remain in custody.  There are unconfirmed reports that Rachel Chandler has been refusing food and water.

Meantime, while pirates do not set out to kill hostages, rather to get ransom for them, yesterday, according to a self-declared pirate spokesman, the captain of a Virgin Island owned, North Korean crewed ship taken by pirates died of internal bleeding.

There have been dramatic sea rescues such as the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips but generally ransoms are paid and the United States government estimates that around $30 million was paid in ransom to pirates last year.

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