By Joy Nabukewa and Chris Mgidu
MOMBASA, Kenya, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) — Kenya’s naval forces have stepped up surveillance along the Indian Ocean coastline following reports of a string of unsuccessful pirate attacks this month, officials said on Wednesday.
Kenya Defense Force (KDF) spokesperson Major Emmanuel Chirchir also warned that any attempted attack by pirates will be dealt with.
“We have our Navy troops patrolling from Kenya territorial waters to Kismayu in Somalia and any attempt to attack the vessels will be met with the full force,” Chirchir told Xinhua by telephone.
Kenya Seafarers Union (KSU) Secretary General Andrew Mwangura said that there have been five unsuccessful attacks in the Indian Ocean so far in November.
Mwangura said the recent attack occurred on Sunday after a Danish-owned oil product tanker Torm Kansas came under attack while underway from India to South Africa but managed to fend off a pirate attack.
Heavily armed pirates approached the tanker in a skiff and opened fire while she was en route from Sikka, India laden with 35, 000 tonnes of oil products to Mossel Bay, South Africa.
The Kenyan government expects more shipping lines to use the port of Mombasa and in return expand regional trade in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Congo, with the diffused threat of piracy following the deployment of KDF soldiers in southern Somalia.
“We decided to sort-out the problem of piracy at the source and Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) moved into Somalia last year and teamed up with allied forces, and we are now on our way to stabilize Somalia,” said a government official who did not want to be named.
The drop in piracy incidents is however a relief to shipping companies using the Indian Ocean that have been target of pirates often paying heavy ransom to secure release of their vehicles and the crew.
Shipping companies had been forced to hire private security companies to enhance the security of their vehicles, a fact that however has increased the cost of doing business.
Before Kenya’s cross border incursion into Somalia two years ago, consumers in eastern and central Africa region had also been affected by the piracy as the cost of insurance went up because of highlighted risks, forcing importers to transfer the high insurance cost to consumers.
“Nine suspected pirates were arrested on suspicion of trying to hijack a Danish refined oil and chemical carrier in the Indian Ocean on Nov. 11,” Mwangura said.
The nine suspected Somalia nationals are being held by a Danish naval ship, which is part of NATO forces patrolling at sea, and are due to be handed over to relevant authority for trial.
“We have reported fresh incidents off the coast of Somalia near the Gulf of Aden, an indication that the piracy is resurfacing again hence posing a threat to shipping sector,” said Mwangura.
He said Somali pirates are holding two vessels with 15 crew members for ransom, as well as 49 seafarers captive on land, including 37 held for over two years.
Kenya’s incursion in Somalia to deal with Al-Shabaab militants in 2011 has helped reduce ransom demands on captured ships by Somali pirates.
The incident had affected the shipping sector through the rise of insurance cost as shippers took extra covers for war risk, kidnap and ransom in addition to conventional underwriting of cargo and hull.
Shipping companies were forced to reroute their vessels hence through the Mediterranean, costing them at least 10,000 U.S dollars per tonne and therefore making Africa difficult to do business in.
Al-Shabaab militants had used Kismayo as their main base for more than a year but moved out on Saturday as Somali forces backed up by Kenyan and African Union troops advanced towards the port city.
Attacks in seas around Somalia continued to fall dramatically, with just 10 incidents attributed to Somali pirates this year, down from 70 in the same nine months of 2012, said the world’s maritime watchdog last month.
In its latest report, the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB), however, warned of the threat of continuing violent attacks off the East and West coasts of Africa.
Foreign naval forces continue to play a key role in the response against piracy in this area from the collection of intelligence to the identification and disarming of suspected pirate vessels before they pose a threat to ships.