In the wake of last week’s Somali pirate raid that nabbed a Ukrainian ship laden with smuggled weapons, an international naval flotilla is assembling to protect commercial shipping. But the roughly dozen warships slated to patrol the Horn of Africa in coming months are spread thin. “We’re not always there” when pirates attack, a Navy source tells me.
To shrink the tens of thousands of square miles of ocean where pirate attacks might occur, the Navy has established a secret “security lane” connecting the Gulf of Aden to the Indian Ocean. The precise location of the so-called “Maritime Security Area,” apparently some 200 miles off the Somali coast, is a closely held secret. The Navy sends its coordinates to commercial vessels via VHF radio, asking them to steer into the lane where warships can more closely guard them.
The security lane, and other anti-pirate measures, are the focus of my latest piece in Popular Mechanics.
But pirates may already have figured out where the lane is, according to naval analyst Martin Murphy, from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “They’re not stupid,” Murphy says of the pirates, many of whom are former fishermen with years of experience on Somali waters. Murphy says pirates have seized several vessels inside the lane.
(Photo: via PopMech)
Peacekeepers, insurgents swap mortar fire
U.S. planes terrify Somalis
Peace talks break down
Ship rescues Somalis
Who are Al Shabab?
Abducted journos’ vulnerability
Problems retrieving journos
Kidnapping: inside job?
Developments in kidnapping case