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8 Bermeo Seiners Hire Former Military Men To ‘Protect’ Them

The Seychelles-flagged fishing vessels operating in the Indian Ocean will count on private security on board as of tomorrow, Friday October 9th, onwards. This is something that involves an expense of 24,000 Euros per month.
Eight Seychelles-flagged ships from Bermeo, Biscay, Basque Country (one third of the Basque freezer tuna fleet operating in the Indian Ocean) will carry former military men on board to strengthen the safety of their crew members and avoid possible attacks by Somali pirates.

Those tuna boats contracting private security are Intertuna I, Intertuna II and III of the Intertuna Albacore Company; Atunsa company’s Artza; Txori Aundi from the Pevaeche firm (owner of the Playa de Bakio, another ship hijacked in April 2008) and vessels Erroxape, Demiku and Xilixili.

The cost of the security involves an expense of 24,000 Euros per month for those companies, all of them established in Bermeo.
Last month, Spain’s government gave the go-ahead for Spanish tuna boats operating in the Indian Ocean to try to ward off Somali pirates by hiring private security guards armed with high-powered rifles.

Back in January, the Spanish government decided to let Spanish vessels hire private security guards armed with pistols, but this was soon seen as insufficient firepower against bandits sometimes armed with weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades.

Spain argues that they cannot station Marines on fishing boats, as the industry has requested, because Spanish law does not allow the military to be used for protecting private property.

However, fishermen and ship owners argue that France stations Marines on fishing boats to protect French boats.

Spain has had a number of encounters with pirates over the past two years. In April of last year a Basque tuna boat was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia and held for six days until a reported $1.2 million ransom was paid.

A Spanish trawler escaped a hijacking attempt in September of last year, and earlier this month another vessel dodged a similar attack off the Seychelles by taking evasive action.

The waters off lawless Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden are notoriously dangerous, with pirates hijacking merchant ships and holding crew members for ransom. The International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur says there have been 156 attacks so far this year.