This Month in Somali Piracy

August – September 2010

Updated by Sean Hannan

  • In the first quarter of 2010 (January 1, 2010 – March 31, 2010), there were 35 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the waters off East Africa, fourteen fewer than the first quarter of 2009.1 As of September 8th, 2010, there were an estimated 23 vessels and 141 crew members being held in Somalia.2
  • A group of Somali pirates stumbled into international custody when they mistook the USS Ashland for a merchant vessel and attempted an attack. On April 10th, 2010, the pirate skiff chased the USS Ashland and then opened fire on the warship. The USS Ashland is an amphibious landing ship accommodating up to 500 US Marines, and a number of amphibious landing craft and helicopters, as well as a crew of 300 sailors. US sailors returned fire, killing one Somali, and destroying the skiff. The remaining six pirates were taken into custody, and moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where the Ashland is home ported. On August 27, 2010 Jama Idle Ibrahim plead guilty to piracy-related charges – attacking with intent to plunder, engaging in an act of violence against people on a vessel, and using a firearm during a crime of violence. There had been some controversy over the charges since, it was argued that the pirates neither boarded nor took control of the vessel, and had thus not committed any act of piracy.3
  • Pirates seized control of a Malta-flagged cargo vessel Olib G on Wednesday, September 8th, 2010. The vessel is crewed by 15 Georgians and Turks and was traveling through the internationally-prescribed transit lanes off the coast of Somalia. The United States deployed a helicopter to attempt contact with the vessel, but it was unable to reach the vessel in time. The European Naval Force Somalia (EUNAVFOR) subsequently tracked the ship via radar as it transited south towards Somalia.4
  • reported that on September 9th, 2010, the United States Marines boarded and seized a merchant vessel that pirates had captured. The pirates had taken control of the Merchant Vessel (M/V) Magellan Star on Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 off the coast of Somalia. The 11 man Magellan Star crew locked themselves in a safe room onboard as the pirates boarded. At 5 a.m. local time, the United States Marine Corps 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Maritime Raiders, a 24 man maritime special operations unit, stormed the vessel and took the nine pirates into custody without firing a single shot. The Maritime Raiders were stationed aboard the USS Dubuque (LPD-8) serving in the anti-piracy Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151). The nine pirates, according to the US Fifth Fleet, are in CTF-151’s custody and “pending further disposition.” This marks the first direct boarding action undertaken by US military forces in the anti-piracy mission off Somalia.5

  1. “REPORTS ON ACTS OF PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AGAINST SHIPS: First quarterly report (January to, and including, March 2010)”. International Maritime Organization. June 9th, 2010. (accessed September 9, 2010).
  2. “Pirates seize ship with Georgian, Turkish crew off Somalia.” AFP. (accessed September 9, 2010).
  3. “Somali pirate admits attacking US warship.” BBC. (accessed September 9, 2010).
  4. “Pirates seize ship with Georgian, Turkish crew off Somalia.” AFP. (accessed September 9, 2010).
  5. “U.S. forces board pirate-captured vessel, seize control.” (accessed September 9, 2010).