The gangs’ methods vary little, even when taking a 320,000-tonne monster like the Sirius Star.  Gunmen typically approach on small speedboats, opening fire on the bridge until the ship’s captain submits and allows them on board, usually throwing down a ladder.  The average reaction time between spotting the pirates and being boarded is 15 minutes.

Crews are strictly instructed not to resist attack once arms have been employed.  Once captured, violence against crew members is rare.

Negotiations with ships’ owners can go on for several months and are clouded in secrecy.  Fourteen ships with more than 250 crew members are being held as negotiations continue.  Among them is the Ukrainian arms ship Faina, which was captured in August with a cargo of 33 battle tanks, hundreds of crates of Kalashnikovs and ammunition.

Shipping companies have noticed a pattern in which new hijacks occur within days of a ransom settlement, suggesting that the gangs are acting in rotation, moving from one hijack to another as soon as the last is resolved.

“There are never less than ten to twelve ships being held,” said Giles Knowles, head of maritime security for the Baltic and International Maritime Council, which represents more than 2,700 of the world’s shipping companies.  Last week, three ransom settlements were resolved, he said, with three more hijacks promptly taking place since Friday.  “It would seem there is a cycle.”

Terje Storeng, chief executive of Odfjell, said: “We will no longer expose our crew to the risk of being hijacked and held for ransom by pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

“The rerouting will entail extra sailing days and later cargo deliveries.  This will incur significant extra cost, but we expect our customers’ support and contribution.”

------I must be missing something.  The goddam United Governments has nothing to say about this?  George Bush and his meddling gang of warmongers - nothing to say?  Bill Clinton and The Nationbuilders, Sandy Burger, Madeleine Halfbright - nothing to say?  Where is Jesse Jackson decrying mistreatment of Africans?  (oh, yeah, i forgot)  Where is CAIR decrying the mistreatment of Islamics?  (oh, yeah, they're the troublemakers here again, I forgot.)

------Saudi Arabia has a bunch of belligerent Islamic males, buckets of cash to supply a navy, and their country is right across the waterway from Somalia.  Why don't they protect ships which have just been loaded at their docks with their products?  What's the purpose of the sword on their flag?  Or, like most tyrants, do they just attack people who won't fire back?

------Why don't these ships have lookouts, install weaponry and protected bridges - and blow the hell out of anyone who looks at them funny?  (Like this guy:)
Somali pirate standing guard on the coast of Hobyo to prevent any possible attack

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