(Reuters) - A new spate of hijackings by Somali pirates has shown they are determined to go on striking at shipping on the region’s strategic trade routes despite intervention by Western and other navies.
Here are some facts about how the attacks threaten international seaborne trade.
— Nearly 20,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year, heading to and from the Suez Canal.
— Millions of tons of crude oil, petroleum products, gas and dry commodities such as grains, iron ore and coal, as well as containerized goods from Hi-Fis to toys are ferried through the Gulf of Aden and Suez Canal every month.
— Major operators of the world’s merchant fleet — carrying 90 percent of the world’s traded goods by volume — have considered bypassing the Gulf of Aden and Suez Canal altogether.
— Industry experts say the alternative trade route, round South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, would add three weeks or more to a typical journey, pushing up the cost of goods.
— The Gulf of Aden is located in the Middle East with Yemen to the north, Somalia to the south and the Arabian Sea to the east. It is connected to the Red Sea by the Bab el Mandab strait. Somalia has been stuck in civil conflict since 1991.
— Exports from the Gulf and Asia to the West must pass through Bab el-Mandab before entering the Suez Canal.
— Seven percent of world oil consumption passed through the Gulf of Aden in 2007, according to Lloyd’s Marine Intelligence Unit.
— Around 30 percent of Europe’s oil goes through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.
— Liquefied natural gas exports from Qatar and Algeria pass through the Gulf of Aden en route to consumers in the West and in Asia. The largest class of gas carrier transiting the area carries enough gas to heat 4.5 million British homes.
— The Gulf of Aden and Suez Canal are the main trade routes for dry commodities and containerized cargo — manufactured goods — between Asia, Europe and the Americas.
— The Suez Canal is the third major source of income for Egypt.
— The IMB said last week there had been 25 attacks on vessels off Somalia’s east coast resulting in seven hijackings this year — all of them since March 1. That compared with 6 attacks in the same period in 2008 including one hijacking in the Indian Ocean.
— There were there were 293 incidents of piracy against ships worldwide in 2008 — 11 percent up on the previous year, the IMB said. Attacks off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden increased nearly 200 percent.
— The attacks have brought the anti-terror Combined Task Force 150 into action. The multinational unit, part of Washington’s Operation Enduring Freedom, is based in Djibouti and has come to the aid of many ships attacked by pirates.
— Last August, it announced a string of waypoints marking a Maritime Security Patrol Area or safe corridor, which warships will patrol while coalition aircraft fly overhead.
— While there is no formal agreement between the coalition and other navies, they have been communicating with each other and sharing information on patrolling the area.
Sources: Reuters/EIA www.eia.gov/BIMCO, Lloyd’s Marine Intelligence Unit, GlobalSecurity/Ministry of Defense/International Maritime Bureau.