Armed Security Guards Kill Pirate in Shootout

Fox News ( is reporting that armed security guards have shot and killed a Somali pirate for the first time.  You can read the news report here.  The incident took place on Tuesday, 23 March, and was directed against the Panamanian-flagged, general cargo vessel MV Almezaan (IMO Registry No.7906710).  The ship’s owners are from the UAE and it regularly plies these waters hauling small cargoes (2,886 DWT).  This is the third time Almezaan has been attacked; she was capture twice and ransomed both times in 2009.  The vessel is 89 metres long and has a beam of 13m.

The incident raises fears of escalating violence between two groups that are not subject to controls on their use of force.  The article cites Patrick Cullen, from the Barcelona-based International Politics Institute and the co-author of an upcoming book on private maritime security companies, as saying, “Regulating maritime security companies is a very gray area.”  Other organizations are echoing the concerns expressed here, including the International Maritime Bureau, about the use of armed security contractors inducing pirates to be more violent.

The Fox article claims that incidents of violence between ships and pirates are on the rise:

“Crews are becoming adept at repelling attacks by pirates and many more ship owners are using private security guards. Pirates are becoming more aggressive in response, shooting firearms and firing rocket-propelled grenades at ships to try to intimidate captains into stopping.  The International Maritime Bureau says 39 ships were fired off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden in 2008, but that number increased to 114 ships by 2009. Earlier this month, four separate shoot-outs [occurred] in a single day between pirates, security guards and military personnel aboard commercial vessels.”

Almezaan is a small, slow freighter whose owners have had enough of paying ransoms.  This represents the baseline for the entire piracy issue, not an exceptional incident involving a high-value target.  The next move by the pirates will be very illuminating, although it may take some time before a trend emerges.