The Fight Against Piracy Spreads Into the Indian Ocean

As the Gulf of Aden becomes safer, pirate attacks spread into the Indian Ocean.

ByABC News
September 9, 2009, 10:28 AM

DUBAI, Sept. 9, 2009 — -- A year after the U.S. Navy launched a concerted effort at curbing modern-day piracy, the seas are safer in the Gulf of Aden. But there is evidence that the success of the U.S. and its partner countries in the busy shipping lane has pushed the problem outward, as pirate attacks spread through the Red Sea and into the Indian Ocean.

"It's an undeniable fact, you're going to push the problem elsewhere. Enemies adapt, and pirates will adapt as well," said Jason Alderwick, a maritime safety expert with the International Institute for Security Studies.

For countries like the Seychelles, an island nation in East Africa that relies heavily on tourism, piracy has become a critical issue.

As the map of pirate attacks has expanded, the luxury yachts and commercial ships off its coast have become fresh prey. The result has been a maritime game of cat-and-mouse. In April the Seychelles arrested nine suspected pirates for the attempted hijacking of a cruise liner, and this fall the U.S. military plans to deploy unmanned drones in the Seychelles to deter piracy by air.

"There's going to clearly be a limit in terms of maritime intervention," said Alderwick. "They're probably reaching the best case scenario in what they can achieve."

Since last year American warships, in partnership with the navies of more than a dozen countries, have patrolled and protected what's called the "Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor," a 464-mile, two-lane water highway through the Gulf of Aden. The approach has been a qualified success. The U.S. Navy says not a single vessel that has passed through the corridor has been hijacked since the patrols were launched in fall of 2008.

But ships traveling outside the lane are still prime targets. The busy shipping route, which lines the Horn of Africa and sees passage of more than 33,000 ships each year, had been riddled with attacks from Somali pirates – leading what the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) called "an unprecedented rise in maritime hijacking."