Earlier this month, eleven Somali pirates were sentenced to three and a half years in jail by an Italian judge.
The pirates had attempted to hijack a ship about 200 nautical miles off the coast of Oman on January 17th, 2012. The ship they attempted to hijack was an oil tanker belonging to the italian company Montanari Navigazaione.
Fortunately, the crew aboard the ship was well-versed in anti-pirate best practices. The crew of 24 on the Valdarno reacted quickly when they spotted two skiffs rapidly approaching their vessel. Most of the crew took refuge in a citadel, which is something of a fortified panic room for crew to hide out in the case of an attempted hijacking.
Meanwhile, the captain ordered the ship to travel at full speed to make boarding as difficult as possible. He also began steering the ship in a zig-zag pattern in order to create a wake big enough to give the small skiffs trouble. The crew was able to send an SOS signal, which was received by the Italian Navy frigate Grecale, which was in the region as part of NATO operation Ocean Shield.
The frigate dispatched a helicopter to immediately surveil the scene, while a group of Italian marines prepared to board the mother ship from which the skiffs originated. The once aboard, the soldiers found 10 kidnapped Yemeni fisherman who were being held hostage, and proceeded to arrest all of the pirates on board.
These Somali pirates received relatively lighter sentences than others who have been caught by Italian authorities. In this case, it was because the hijacking of the Valdarno was only attempted, and the pirates only carried assault rifles, rather than rocket-propelled grenades or other heavier weapons. Additionally, it seems that the pirates in the Valdarno hijacking were able to secure a plea bargain in order to lighten their sentence.