NORTHWOOD, England, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- EU Naval Force Somalia is urging ship owners to remain vigilant off Somalia.
Despite the downward trend in piracy off Somalia, major components of EU Naval Force Somalia -- Operation Atalanta, NATO and Combined Task Force 151 are urging ship owners traversing the Somali coast to remain on their guard against possible attacks.
In 2011 Somali piracy cost the global economy $7 billion and netted pirates $160 million in ransom payments, the International Maritime Bureau said. The IMB reported 69 hijacking incidents by Somali pirates from Jan. 1-July 12, a 32 percent decline from 2011 levels.
"We currently see a tactical and reversible success," EU Naval Force Somalia Deputy Operation Commander Italian Rear Adm. Gualtiero Mattesi said in the news release.
"It is of utmost importance that pressure on Somali pirates and their business model is maintained and even increased as the strategic context, the situation in Somalia allowing for pirates to act, has not yet changed. International navies and all merchant vessels transiting the high-risk area, need to remain vigilant and uphold their respective responsibilities to support the fight against piracy."
Mattesi said that by joining forces, counter piracy efforts are more effective and achieve more than any one ship, navy, organization or country working alone.
"Even with all this military presence, the efforts of our naval forces cannot guarantee safety in the region," he said. "It is for this reason that CTF 151, NATO and the EU remind all ship-owners, operators and managers to continue to educate and train their mariners in both the threat and how to mitigate it."
He pointed to the booklet "Piracy -- Best Management Practices Version 4" for "useful updates for masters in implementing protection measures to deter piracy."
The document is based on lessons learned from ships' masters and can be downloaded from the NATO Shipping Center and EU NAVOR/Maritime Security Center -- Horn of Africa Web sites.
Reflecting the decline in assaults, coverage prices have also declined. Merchant ship owners seeking to insure a single voyage along the Somali coast can purchase $5 million of anti-pirate coverage for $3,000-$5,000, if the vessel carries armed guards.
Further underlining the concerted global assault on the pirates, last month U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar in Norfolk, Va., sentenced Somali citizen Mohammad Shibin, 10 concurrent life sentences, two consecutive life sentences and two 20-year sentences and ordered him to pay $5.4 million in restitution.
Shibin had been convicted in April on 15 charges, including piracy, hostage-taking, kidnapping and conspiracy.
He was found to be part of a group of pirates who captured an American yacht carrying Jean and Scott Adam of California and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle from Seattle on Feb. 18, 2011, off the Somali coast. The pirates subsequently killed all four hostages despite attempts by the U.S. military to negotiate their release.
Prosecutors maintained that Shibin was among an elite group whose skills were needed to negotiate ransoms. The claimed Shibin researched the background of the hostages over the Internet to determine how much ransom to demand and to find family members to contact for ransom payments.
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