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Pirates' Toll: Shipping in the Wake of Somalia





If the trooper didn't roll his eyes, he expressed something less than total credulity.

"I don't care if he's talking to Queen Elizabeth, I want license, insurance and registration!"

Taylor, his hands held where the trooper could see them, managed to convince the trooper to let him remove, very deliberately, from the back seat -- "Please, it will explain everything" -- a copy of a New York newspaper, one of the tabloids. Taylor held it up; emblazoned across the pages were photographs of Christodoulou's ship, the MV Biscaglia, swarmed with pirates.

The trooper, American law-and-order, glanced at an intense Christodoulou in the front seat. He looked at the newspaper photographs -- pirates, Kalashnikovs, hostages, Africa -- an alien shard of experience from the other side of the planet flashing into life on a New Jersey highway. The trooper got back in his car and drove off.

Christodoulou was left with his pirates.

>>World's Navies Respond to Pirates



WAR RISK
If anything has brought the merchant shipping industry into the light of popular culture over the last two years it's been the pirates of Somalia, who have during that time hijacked 94 vessels, held an estimated 1,800 people hostage, and extracted something close to $200 million in ransom from ship owners around the world.

They've attacked virtually every type of sea craft there is -- polished European sailing yachts, dilapidated Vietnamese fishing trawlers, bone-white promenade-deck cruise ships sailing out of Miami, break-bulk stick freighters chugging out of the Port of Singapore, high-riding container ships owned by spruce Scandinavian industrial conglomerates, low-riding dry-bulk carriers, Ro/Ro car carriers and very-large crude carriers -- the VLCC supertankers that weigh more than 300,000 tons fully loaded -- owned by Armani-draped Athens shipping magnates.

The pirates are, by and large, fearless. Once, a gang had enough temerity to assail an American supply ship, the Lewis & Clark, then carrying fuel, ammunition and sailors' mail for the warships of the United States Navy. (The attack was thwarted.)

So dense is the action that the crew of one ship -- the MV Horizon -- witnessed the hijacking of a second ship, the MV Titan, while both vessels were navigating pirate waters in the Gulf of Aden in March 2009. Four months later, in July, as it steamed through on a return voyage, pirates captured the Horizon.

Nearly every major shipping company has experienced a run-in with Somali pirates of one kind or another: DryShips' (DRYS) Saldanha, carrying coal to Slovenia, was captured in February 2009, released for some millions in ransom that April; Navios Maritime Partners' (NMM) Apollon [pictured above], hauling fertilizer from Florida to India, was hijacked in December, released in late February, about two weeks ago. Earlier this year, pirates held two ships managed by the unlucky Zodiac Maritime, a privately held U.K. concern, at the same time. Eagle Bulk Shipping (EGLE), Excel Maritime (EXM), Genco (GNK), FreeSeas (FREE), Frontline (FRO), Maersk -- all have had ships attacked since Somalia-based piracy first burst into the headlines in 2005.

Stock quotes in this article: DRYS, NMM, FREE, GNK, FRO, EXM, EGLE 

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