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Battle against piracy hampered by legal ambiguities

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

LONDON - Somali piracy is worsening by the week and governments lack the political will to tackle the crisis, which is threatening world trade routes, shipping industry officials say. Shippers have warned that more than 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil supply passes through the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea and is at risk from seaborne gangs, who are able to operate ever further out to sea and for longer periods, using captured merchant vessels as mother ships. The hijacking of two oil tankers in the northern Indian Ocean recently has put the key oil transport route in the firing line. Pirate gangs are making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms, and despite successful efforts to quell attacks in the Gulf of Aden, navies have been unable to contain piracy in the Indian Ocean because of the vast distances involved. The fight against piracy has been hampered by legal ambiguities over the appropriate venue to prosecute captured suspects. A U.N. official proposed special courts be set up to try captured pirates. Shipping industry officials say the human cost is also rising as around 800 seafarers are now being held captive by Somali gangs. Pirates are using torture to force crewmembers to operate captured mother ships.