, UNITED NATIONS, Nov 10 – Somali pirates are becoming more brazen and keeping ahead of the international naval force seeking to end their high seas marauding, a top UN official said on Tuesday.
The pirates have kidnapped almost 100 new crew and passengers from ships in less than a month and there are now at least 438 seafarers and 20 ships held by bandits, according to latest International Maritime Organization figures.
The sea gangs may now be making hundreds of millions of dollars a year from ransom payments, Lynn Pascoe, UN secretary general for political affairs, told the UN Security Council.
"Piracy is a menace that is outpacing efforts by the international community to stem it," he said, highlighting the latest "appalling" hijack figures.
"The pirates are also taking greater risks and seeking higher ransoms," he added.
Pascoe said a Spanish warship escorting a food supply vessel was "brazenly" attacked on Saturday. The pirates used a freighter they had seized only a month earlier.
The pirates also announced Saturday that they had received a record nine-million-dollar ransom for a South Korean supertanker.
At the same, Pascoe added, international navy forces off the Somalia coast "have disrupted more pirate operations and protected more vessels than ever before."
The UN official said international forces had to deter the pirates, secure the shipping lanes and step up development in conflict-stricken Somalia.
"As long as piracy is so lucrative, with ransom payments adding up to tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars, and other economic incentives so bleak, the incentives are obvious," he said.
Dozens of warships from navies around the world now patrol shipping lanes off Somalia\’s coast and into the Gulf of Aden. But a UN report released last week said that there have been more successful hijackings in the first 10 months of the year, compared to 2009.
More than 700 suspected and convicted pirates are now in detention in 12 countries, more than half of them in Somalia, according to Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODOC).
Kenya is trying 69 suspected pirates and has convicted 50 and the Seychelles has convicted 22, Fedotov told the Security Council. He added that the trials "pose a heavy burden for countries in the region."
"Combating the problem of piracy is a major priority for the Security Council," said Mark Lyall Grant, the British ambassador and president of the council for November.
He said the council had "agreed that the naval operations on their own would not fully address the issue of piracy."It is also important to tackle the root causes of piracy and that those root causes are addressed on the land," he said.