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Monday December 29, 2008

Pirates of Aden

This year, Somalian pirates hogged the news with their derring-do in the Gulf of Aden but shipowners were not amused as they reportedly had to pay millions to secure the release of their vessels and crew.

The Gulf of Aden, located between Somalia and Yemen, was the focal point of pirate activities.

Taking advantage of a country without a stable government, the pirates attacked more than 90 vessels this year, seizing almost 40, and raked in some US$30mil (RM95mil) in ransom.

The route is one of the busiest shipping lanes, where about 20,000 merchant vessels pass through annually on the way in and out of the Suez Canal.

Despite the security threat, many ships continue to ply that route as the Suez is the quickest way from Asia to Europe and America.

Heading home: Pirates on a speedboat approaching a mother ship near Eyl, Somalia, in this framegrab made from a Nov 24 TV footage.

Malaysian vessels were not spared, with two tankers operated by MISC Bhd being hijacked in August this year.

MT Bunga Melati Dua, with 29 Malaysians and 10 Filipinos on board, was hijacked at 10.09pm on Aug 19, while MT Bunga Melati Lima, with 36 Malaysians and five Filipinos on board, was hijacked in Yemeni territorial waters at 9.50pm on Aug 29.

Following the hijacking, Malaysia sent three Navy ships to provide security cover for Malaysian ships sailing the pirate-infested seas.

After more than a month, the MT Bunga Melati Dua and MT Bunga Melati Lima were released by the Somali pirates after a ransom was paid. Media reports claimed the firm had paid US$2mil (RM6.9mil) ransom for the release of each vessel.

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