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Intl co-operation to tackle piracy an unprecedented feat: US

International cooperation against piracy off the Somalia coast by several countries including the US, India, China and Russia is an unprecedented feat, a senior US official said.

Updated: Feb 19, 2010, 15:00 PM IST

Washington: International cooperation against piracy off the Somalia coast by several countries including the US, India, China and Russia is an unprecedented feat which could be a good model for any such future endeavours, a senior US official said.
"The number of nations contributing to international naval force in Gulf of Aden has risen to above 20," principal deputy assistant secretary for political-military affairs Tom Countryman said.

On any given day there are about 17 ships patrolling the Gulf of Aden that provides security for nearly 30,000 cargo ships that pass through this area every year.

"Melding of the US, the EU, NATO forces, together with contributions by a number of other countries, including Russia and China, has been accomplished with a shared mechanism for coordination without need for there to be a supreme commander in charge of the effort," he said.

"It is an unprecedented feat that so many different countries are participating... it`s a good model not only for the Gulf of Aden and the Somali bases, but also for future such endeavours," Countryman told reporters at a conference.

He said the Contact Group on Piracy working closely with International Maritime Organisation, has established and codified best management practices that ships should employ in this dangerous territory.

"From US Government`s side, US Coast Guard and Maritime Administration have required US-flagged vessels to employ these practices when they are delivering food aid or undertaking other commercial voyages in that region," he said.

Countryman said the US and its international partners encourage the states affected by piracy to prosecute pirates.

"Kenya has stepped forward and offered itself as a site for the prosecution of suspected pirates," he said.

Countryman said success rate for pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden has fallen to nearly zero.

"There`s been only one successful hijacking in that area since last summer. That`s the area where international naval vessels are concentrated and where an internationally recognised transit corridor exists. That`s an area of about a million square miles," he said.

In 2009, there were 198 pirate attacks on commercial vessels, of which 50 were successful.

At present there are seven known vessels in pirate custody, with around 160 crew members in captivity.

Crew members held captive have historically hailed from several countries including Bulgaria, China, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Philippines, Russia, Taiwan, Tuvalu, and Ukraine, among others.

Since beginning operations, the US has captured 25 suspected pirates, transferring 24 suspects to Kenya for prosecution in Kenyan courts, and is currently prosecuting one case in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.