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New York Times - Ships and Shipping

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Wednesday, 15 August 2012


Pirates now print their own stationery BY BEN BERKOWITZ

Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK
WELCOME to the Pirate Action Group. Commander Jamal wishes to congratulate you on being hijacked. Kindly speak to his negotiator about your ransom, bearing in mind that his demands are the same for every vessel he seizes.
This is how the pirates of the African coast do business, presenting themselves as people who live up to their commitments.
Last year Somali piracy cost the world economy $7bn and earned the pirates about $160m in ransoms, according to the International Maritime Bureau. It reported 69 hijacking incidents between January 1 and July 12, down 32% from last year.
The pirates in many cases were surprisingly well-organised, down to having their own letterheads for their victims.
One such letter was presented to the owner of a hijacked oil tanker and the owner’s insurer after the ship was taken. Due to commercial sensitivities, their names and the size of the ransom request, cannot be revealed.
The cover sheet, in memo format, was addressed, "To Whom It May Concern" with the subject line, "Congratulations to the Company/Owner."
"Having seen when my Pirate Action Group had controlled your valuable vessel we are saying to you Company/Owner welcome to Jamal’s Pirate Action Group and you have to follow by our law to return back your vessel and crew safely," the memo began.
Its tone belied the violent reality of the pirates’ actions. Armed Somali pirates had held more than 170 hostages by this month and had caused 35 deaths last year.
"Do not imagine that we are making to you intimidation," the memo said, before signing off with "Best regards" and the signature of Jamal Faahiye Culusow, General Commander of the Group. This was accompanied by his seal depicting a skull and crossed swords with the group’s name.
Because the number of attacks have declined, piracy coverage prices have too, said Amanda Holt, a vice-president at insurance brokerage Marsh in England.
"Often, if you buy piracy cover you’ll get a discount on your war premium ," she said. Ship owners looking to insure a single transit could get $5m in coverage from $3,000-$5,000, if the ship had armed guards.
Reuters
Fuente: BusinessDay, South Africa.

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