The Saudi government confirmed today that it has begun negotiating with the pirates who hijacked a supertanker filled with $100 million worth of crude oil, the same day that an Indian warship blasted a pirate ship out of the water.
Saudi Prince Saud Al-Faisal said today the Saudi government does not like to negotiate with "pirates, terrorists or hijackers" but Vela International, the owners of the tanker, is "the final arbiter" on the issue.
The capture of the massive tanker called the Sirius Star shocked the shipping world this week because it was the largest vessel ever seized by pirates and it occurred 450 nautical miles from Somalia, out on the Indian Ocean, an area that had not been affected by the spreading menace.
The surge in Somali piracy continued today. A Thai fishing boat with 16 crew members was attacked as it traveled to the Middle East, and the East African Seafarers' Assistance Program claims that a Greek vessel, with up to 25 people on board, was captured in the Gulf of Aden.
Though the pirates grow bolder, there is one less pirate ship to worry about.
Indian naval officials say one of its warships fired on a pirate "mother vessel" in the Gulf of Aden today after pirates tried to attack it.
The Indian navy says its ship the INS Tabar encountered the vessel during an anti-piracy mission. When the Tabar asked the vessel to stop for further investigation, the pirates issued a message that they would "blow up the naval warship if it closed her."
According to a statement issued by the Indian navy, pirates could be seen roaming the upper deck with guns and RPGs. After the pirates fired on the warship, the Indian navy fired back, blowing up the pirate vessel. Two breakaway boats sped away. One was recovered but abandoned, while the other escaped.
The Indian navy said its actions were necessary "to protect our seaborne trade, instill confidence in our seafaring community as well as function as a deterrent for pirates."
Despite the presence of warships from the United States and several other nations, it was one of the rare times that the Indian navy fired on pirates and the first time it sank a pirate ship.
More nations, alarmed over the pirates' growing reach, are planning to send warships to the Indian Ocean off Somalia's east coast and in the Gulf of Aden, which is located between Somalia's northern coast and Yemen.
South Korea is planning to sending navy ships to the area to protect cargo, and Japan is considering doing the same. And today Arab foreign ministers from countries bordering the Red Sea and affected areas are meeting in Cairo to address the growing piracy threat.
"Piracy is against everybody. Like terrorism, it is a disease that has to be eradicated," al-Faisal said during a news conference.
"It's getting out of control," said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau. "Despite the increase of the military warships, the pirates have a lot of opportunities. They come in great numbers and can attack many ships."
In two weeks, eight ships have been captured by pirates, including three ships in the last three days, according to maritime officials. According to the maritime bureau, there have been 95 piracy attacks on vessels off the coast of Somalia this year, with 39 successfully captured.