Sleeping With Pirates on the High Seas

ABC News' Lara Setrakian reports: I’ll be sleeping with 16 Somali pirates tonight. They’re seven floors below my cabin on the USNS Lewis and Clark, held in a cargo hold converted into a detention facility (I call it “the county jail of the high seas”). It is bare-bones accommodations, mats and blankets surrounded by concertina wire. But as I watched the defeated and disheveled suspects in Marine detention, I could sense their fear. Where they come from, what happens to you in detention isn’t pretty. 

On  the  first day aboard the USNS Lewis and Clark, the Navy’s staging base for counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the Navy made its first catch:  seven Somali pirates who had apparently tried to hijack the M/V Polaris, one of many commercial vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden. To escape the attack, the astute crew pushed the pirates’ ladder overboard before they could jump onto the deck. Then the ship sped up, pulling away from the pirate skiff.

With my second day aboard the Navy ship came a similar story:  nine pirates attacking an Indian commercial vessel, this time the ship escaped through evasive maneuvering. One of the oddest and saddest facts of modern day piracy is that most pirate ships don’t stand a chance against their targets, if only those targets would speed up when approached or use their fire hoses to push the invaders away. I say “saddest fact” because, as we sail on, roughly 60 miles off the coast of Somalia, seven ships and  more than 100 hostage crew members remain in pirate captivity.

What’s next for the captured pirates? A few weeks on board the Lewis and Clark before they’re transferred on shore to face trial, most likely in Kenya. As for us, we’re moving tomorrow to the USS Vella Gulf, the flagship of the Navy’s counter-piracy task force and the ship that picked up the Somali pirates. From there, we’ll get a closer look at America’s operations on the high seas. 

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