(Reuters) - NATO forces foiled an attack by Somali pirates on a Norwegian tanker, NATO officials said Sunday.
In the latest successful assault, pirates seized a Belgian dredger Saturday. Somali sea gangs have captured dozens of ships, taken hundreds of sailors prisoner and made off with tens of millions of dollars in ransoms despite an unprecedented deployment by foreign navies in waters off the Horn of Africa.
Pirates attacked at least 15 vessels off the coast of Somalia in March after only two in January and February.
Below are details about some of the ships believed to be under pirate control and about the increase in piracy:
YENEGOA OCEAN: Seized August 4, 2008 - The Nigerian tugboat, with around 11 crew aboard was hijacked near Bosasso.
JAIKUR-I: Seized October 2, 2008 - The 21,040 ton general cargo ship was detained after a dispute with the owners over damaged cargo. Most of the 21 crew were released last week.
STOLT STRENGTH: Seized November 10, 2008. The chemical tanker had 23 Filipino crew aboard. It was carrying nearly 24,000 tons of oil products.
MASINDRA 7: Seized December 16, 2008. The Malaysian-owned tugboat, was seized with a barge off the Yemeni coast. The tug has around 11 Indonesian crew.
SEA PRINCESS II: Seized January 2, 2009 - The Yemeni-owned tanker was carrying petroleum products and oil. There were eight Indian seamen among the crew of at least 15.
SALDANHA: Seized February 22, 2009. The Maltese-flagged cargo ship, sailing to Slovenia, has 22 crew and was loaded with coal.
SERENITY: The fast catamaran Serenity sailing for Madagascar from the Seychelles with three people on board, was seized in early March.
NIPAYIYA: Seized on March 25. The Greek-owned and Panama-registered was seized by pirates 450 miles from Somalia’s south coast.
INDIAN OCEAN EXPLORER: Seized March 2009. The 35-meter boat was built in Hamburg as an oceanographic research vessel. It accommodates around 12 passengers.
HANSA STAVANGER: Seized April 4, 2009. The 20,000-tonne German container vessel was captured about 400 miles off the southern Somali port of Kismayu, between the Seychelles and Kenya. The vessel had a German captain, three Russians, two Ukrainians and 14 Filipinos on board.
MALASPINA CASTLE: Seized April 6, 2009. The 32,500-tonne bulker is British-owned, but operated by Italians.
— A Taiwanese tuna fishing boat, the WIN FAR 161, was seized on the same day.
SHUGAA-AL-MADHI: Seized April 9, 2009. The fishing boat was seized with 13 crew aboard.
MOMTAZ 1: Seized April 10, 2009. Egyptian fishing vessel was detained with 18 crew.
BUCCANEER: Seized April 11, 2009. The Italian tugboat, owned by Micoperi Marine Contractors, was carrying 10 Italians, five Romanians and a Croatian, and was seized towing two barges while traveling westbound through the Gulf of Aden.
IRENE E.M.: Seized April 14, 2009. The St. Vincent and the Grenadines-flagged Greek-owned bulk carrier was hijacked as it traveled through the Gulf of Aden. Its 22 Filipino crew were unharmed.
— The nearly 5,000-tonne cargo ship, the SEA HORSE flying Togo’s flag, was seized the same day.
POMPEI: Seized April 18, 2009. The Belgian dredging vessel and its 10 crew was hijacked about 600 km (370 miles) from the Somali coast en route to the Seychelles. It has two Belgian, four Croatian, one Dutch and three Filipino crew on board.
— In 2008 there were 293 incidents of piracy against ships worldwide — 11 percent up on the year before. Attacks off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden almost trebled.
Nearly 20,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year, heading to and from the Suez Canal.
Sources: Reuters/International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Center/Lloyds List/Inquirer.net
Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;