KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The Russian navy helped foil an attack by Somali pirates on a Dutch container ship in the dangerous Gulf of Aden, a maritime watchdog said Wednesday.
Six pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades at the ship, which took evasive maneuvers while calling for help, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Malaysia.
The pirates chased the vessel for about 30 minutes but aborted their attempt to board the ship after a Russian warship and helicopter arrived at the scene, Choong said.
Pirates last year attacked 111 ships and seized 42 off the Horn of Africa, many in the Gulf of Aden. An international flotilla including U.S. warships has stopped many attacks, but the area is too vast to keep all ships safe in the vital sea lane that links Asia to Europe.
Choong said it was nevertheless getting harder for Somali pirates to hijack ships because of increased naval patrols and the vigilant watch kept by ships that pass through the area.
“The attacks are continuing but successful hijackings by pirates have [been] reduced,” he said.
There have been 11 attacks in Somali waters this year, with two ships hijacked. In total, 11 vessels with 210 crew members remain in pirate hands, Choong said.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and its lawless coastline is a haven for pirates. The multimillion dollar ransoms are one of the only ways to make money in the impoverished nation.