Pirate Tales Down
at the Dhow Wharf

DUBAI — In the budget restaurants at the creekside Dhow Wharf, it seems almost every sailor has a story to tell about pirates.

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Published: Tue 14 Jul 2009, 12:42 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 7:56 PM

Over naan bread and cheap cigarettes, the captains of dhow ships regale each other with accounts of near-misses at the hands of sea-borne raiders.

The majority of reported pirate attacks have taken place in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of East Africa.

However, dhow captains such as Hassan Majid claim that pirates are increasingly seen around the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Arabian Gulf.

“Normally they fire to make you stop,” said Majid, an Iranian, through a translator. “Once you stop, they board your ship and take all your stock.

“I haven’t heard of anyone getting hurt but I know lots of people whohave lost the goods they were carrying.

“My friend was fired on by pirates near the Strait of Hormuz, but he carried on sailing and escaped them.”

The majority of dhows in the creekside port travel the established trade routes between Iran and the UAE — across the Arabian Gulf.

Others travel out of the Strait of Hormuz to Yemen and East Africa, where pirate attacks are more common.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which compiles numbers of pirate attacks, has only one case of pirate attack near the Strait ofHormuz in June.

However the number of attacks may be many times more because of underreporting, said UK-based expert on piracy, Roger Middleton.

“A dhow captain who speaks little English may not know how to report a pirate attack to the IMO or Nato,”he said.

“There may be many more cases occurring which we simply don’tknow about.”

He added that it was possible that pirates from Somalia and Yemen could be moving toward the Arabian Gulf area because of the increasing presenceof navy warships around the Gulfof Aden.

“Although there’s no statistical evidence to prove this, it would make sense for them to move to the Arabian Gulf,” he said.

“Because of the level of trade there, it would be a fruitful hunting groundfor them.” Ships with as much as 17 million barrels of oil pass through the Strait of Hormuz every day, according to statistics from the US Energy Information Administration.

In June a commercial cargo ship was commandeered by pirates off the coast of Sur, in Southern Oman, near the Strait of Hormuz.

While larger ships carrying expensive cargo are more likely to be held to ransom, smaller traders are likely to just be raided and left to continue on their way, Middleton said.

In Dubai’s Dhow Wharf, captains said they were aware of a greater risk in sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.

“Everyone’s heard about pirates getting closer,” said Tariq, anIranian captain.

“They could be Iraqi or Yemeni, but we don’t know. They board the ships with their face covered.”

The majority of the traders at the Dhow Wharf carry grains, clothes and cheap Chinese-made toys across the 70 hour journey from Iran to Dubai.

The port has eight wharves, each of which is capable of handling 31 ships at a time. Only wooden dhows are allowed to enter the port. Last year 720,000 tonnes of cargo passed through the port.


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