Maritime officials seek more authority to confront pirates
As attacks continue, experts consider whether deadly force would be an effective deterrent.
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Meanwhile, there are conflicting reports about the status of negotiations for the release of Capt. Phillips. He's been in a lifeboat adrift in international waters held hostage by four pirates. He reportedly agreed to get in the lifeboat in exchange for the safety of the crew of his freighter, the Maersk Alabama. The ship was carrying food aid to Kenya where it arrived today guarded by US Navy Seals.Skip to next paragraph
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Some international wire services are now reporting the pirates are demanding a $2 million dollar ransom in exchange for Phillips's release and the pirates' safe passage to the mainland, despite the fact the lifeboat is adrift and flanked by the destroyer USS Bainbridge and other US Navy warships. But an international environmental organization called Ecoterra International says in a statement that relatives of the four Somali hijackers, along with a group of Somali elders, are traveling to the coastal area nearby determined to "solve the problem peacefully ... without any guns or ransom."
On Thursday, Capt. Phillips attempted to escape by swimming to safety, but he was recaptured. Hostage negotiators from the FBI are working with the military hoping to bring about a resolution. Several more US and European warships are now steaming toward the area. The pirates have warned that any attempt at a rescue would end up as "a disaster."
Experienced mariners say piracy has always been a problem in certain parts of the world. Most recently, the Straits of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaysia was noted for the large number of attacks. There were more than 200 pirate attacks in 2002. In the summer of 2004, the number of attacks dropped to less than fifty after Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore led a concerted international effort to increase military patrols in the area.
"Piracy has been a problem for a long time," says Captain Richard Hayman, who just returned from a trip to the Indian Ocean. "Twenty years ago we would always carry armed guards going through the Straits of Malacca going to Singapore. So it's always been a problem somewhere. But this has gotten way out of hand because the Somalis have turned it into an organized crime racket, rather than just a problem of a few spot pirates."
There have been more than 66 such attacks so far this year, and Somalia pirates now hold more than 20 ships with about 300 crew members held hostage.