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The surviving pirates, according to the Indian navy, fled in their speedboats. One boat was later found abandoned and the other escaped.

The IMB believed as of last week - based on naval intelligence reports from Coalition HQ in Bahrain - that there were at least three trawler and tug motherships operating in the Gulf of Aden area, though the count may now be down by one.

In related developments, pirates who surrendered following last week's gun battle with Royal Marines operating from HMS Cumberland have been handed over to Kenyan authorities for trial.

Naval commanders in the area have stated that they will never be able to wipe out piracy in the area with any reasonable level of effort. They have appealed for merchant ships to follow a patrolled corridor, to use the recommended self-protective measures, and to embark private security teams if possible while passing through the area.

We on the Reg naval operations desk would concur that world navies can never control piracy using the methods they are employing now. The warships currently patrolling east of the Gate of Tears are multi-hundred-million or even billion-pound assets with crews hundreds strong, and bring little to the fight but a single helicopter and boarding party.

There's no need to send submarine-hunting sonars, miracle sky-sweeping interceptors, cruise missiles, torpedoes and all the rest of it to fight pirates with RPGs, though. Cheap auxiliaries full of helicopters and marines - backed by airborne surveillance if possible - would be far more effective at a fraction of the cost.

This technical debate is largely being ignored, however, and arms-industry executives were using the piracy issue to argue for more expensive frigates in front of politicians in London just yesterday.

The current flurry of media attention is likely to die down soon, as editors come to realise that piracy off the Horn of Africa has been endemic for years and will keep on being so - just as they realised after a time that submarine telco cables break as a matter of routine.

In the meantime, fear not - the Reg will not be bulking out its coverage with any more non-digital piracy stories unless something out of the ordinary happens. One reason we won't is that anyone who'd like to keep track can do it for themselves very simply.

We particularly recommend the IMB's Google-mash "Live Piracy Map", weekly summaries and Alert page. ®

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