South Korea dispatches destroyer to rescue tanker hijacked by Somali pirates

South Korea has dispatched 300 troops and a destroyer to secure the release of the Samho Jewelry tanker, which was hijacked recently by Somali pirates.

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    A South Korean navy destroyer seen in this undated file picture released by local Yonhap news agency in Seoul April 6, 2010. A navy destroyer has been sent in response to the hijacking of the Samho Jewelry tanker by Somali pirates.
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South Korea has dispatched 300 troops and a destroyer to secure the release of a Korean-operated tanker with 21 crew members that was hijacked by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea. The attack on the Samho Jewelry tanker follows the release of a hijacked ship owned by the same company only two months ago, and it ups the total of hostages held off the Somali coast to nearly 700.

South Korea’s 4,500-ton destroyer is sailing toward the Arabian Sea and is expected to reach the troubled waters in about two days, a Korean foreign ministry official told the Yonhap news agency.

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"The location of the ship was found and the 21 crew members, including eight South Koreans, were all confirmed to be safe through communications between Samho Shipping Co. and the ship," an unnamed government official said.

The 19,000-ton Samho Jewelry is Maltese-flagged and Norwegian-owned, with a crew from Indonesia, Myanmar, and Korea, according to the European Union's Operation Atalanta, a naval force formed to combat Somali piracy.

The ship was carrying chemicals between the United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka. The hijacking is the second in just one week of a ship leaving UAE ports, the UAE-based National newspaper reports.

Last Samho tanker ransom was $9 million: report

Samho Shipping, which owns the hijacked ship, also had a 300,000-ton oil tanker with 24 crew members hijacked by Somali pirates last year. They were held for 217 days and released only two months ago for a ransom of about $9 million, according to the Korea Times.

Navies from diverse nations, including the US, European Union, India, China, Russia, and Japan, have intensified their patrols of the highly risky waters, Reuters notes. But piracy persists: Since the start of 2011, 14 incidents of hijackings or attempted attacks have occurred near Somalia, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Some 29 vessels are being held off the coast of Somali, according to the EU.

Some progress against Somali piracy

While piracy in the region seems an intractable issue, the Council on Foreign Relation’s Michael L. Baker argues that much progress has been made.

International patrols have nearly eliminated piracy in the once-distressed Gulf of Aden, pushing pirates farther into the Indian Ocean where it is harder to act, he argues. The exceptional conviction of five Somali nationals for piracy in a Norfolk, Va. courtroom in November is also a sign of progress, the CFR's Mr. Baker adds.

But while increased patrols and pushing pirates into riskier waters will help, piracy will persist as long as the rewards are so great in a distressed Somalia, writes Baker.

While it is easy to conceive that one needs simply to increase risks and decrease rewards at sea, the reality is not so simple. Life expectancy for a Somali male is only forty-eight years, unemployment is chronically high, and gross domestic product per capita is $600 per year. To make a dent in the risk-reward analysis that a young Somali man conducts when contemplating a piracy mission, the international community (to include Somalis) has to increase the rewards and decrease the risks ashore while simultaneously increasing the risks and decreasing the rewards at sea. To do this effectively means not only focusing on the pirates operating at sea but also changing the risk-reward equation for the ringleaders sitting in plush villas in Nairobi, clans providing support to pirates in the semi-autonomous Somali state of Puntland, and agents providing intelligence from African ports. It also means reducing the freedom of movement pirates currently enjoy in Puntland. Such an effort will take years, but we can realize incremental progress that builds toward a realistic end-state by combining important new developments.

Top 5 high-profile captures by Somali pirates

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