Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The mothers of all motherships

Last week, an interesting piece from Reuters relayed the IMO's warning that pirates are currently able to attack year round, attributing this augmented capacity to their increasing use of motherships. The report itself was nothing revelatory; mothership use has been steadily rising since 2009, and so far the motley dhows that have made up the pirate fleet have not proven themselves capable of sustaining operations in the face of the fierce winds of the Indian Ocean monsoons. What's worthy of note is the relatively recent deployment of hijacked tankers as "super-motherships," or, as the acronym-enamoured US military has styled them, "LPSVs" (Large Pirate Support Vessels). The practice is not much more than six months old, beginning with the October 2010 commandeering of the roll-on/lift-off cargo vessel MV Izumi. Since then, several other large commercial ships have been converted into motherships, including the German LPG tanker MV York and the 73,000-tonne tanker MT Polar, which in late November was sighted conducting pirate operations roughly 400 km off Somalia's eastern coast. Needless to say, vessels weighing in the tens of thousands of tons are perfectly capable of navigating choppy seas, and it will be interesting to see if the next couple months bring a drop off in pirate attacks comparable to what we have seen in years past. My guess is that they will; with only a handful of LPSVs in operation, one has to figure that the majority of pirates will remain grounded during the monsoons. But this is a trend to watch.

For a more in-depth discussion of the subject, I refer you to the following excellent blog post on the Idarat Maritime website.

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