Somali pirates  carried out a record number of attacks and hijackings in 2009, despite the deployment of international warships a UN Security Council resolution.  So far this week, Somali pirates seized a ship carrying fertilizer from the U.S. in the Indian Ocean and a British-flagged chemical tanker in the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden.

As we have previously posted, ship owners need to take extra precaution when sailing in the Horn of Africa, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

An international naval force now patrols the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.  The EU Naval Force deployed this force to the Gulf of Aden in December 2008.  However, as noted by the maritime lawyers of SMSH, even with warships available, danger remains high.

Currently, the maritime pirates hold 12 vessels and 263 crew members, These vessels are not rescued because of the risk to lives of the crew, leaving shelling out cash for ransoms as the only resolution.

This week’s incidents catapulted the number of attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia to 214 this year, with 47 vessels hijacked .  Twelve of those ships, with a total of 263 crew members, are currently held for ransom by the pirates.

The U.K.-flagged slow-moving chemical tanker merchant vessel St James Park issued a distress message Monday and the ship’s owner early Tuesday relayed that the tanker has been hijacked by pirates.  The European Union’s anti-piracy force noted the vessel was seized while in the Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor in the Gulf of Aden that is patrolled by the international naval coalition.  The tanker has 26 crew members on board from a variety of countries.

Three hours after the St James Park was hijacked a Greek-owned bulk carrier Panamanian-flagged carrier with 19 crew members was seized by pirates.  The Navios Apollon was carrying fertilizer from the United States to India.  The crewmembers are one Greek and 18 Filipinos.

Ship owners need to take more antipiracy precautions, including placing armed guards aboard all vessels.

For more information about piracy, please contact our firm Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers.