STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Some of the world's navies are trying to put pirates under stress. They've been patrolling the waters off Somalia, where pirates have captured tankers and other ships. And today, we can tell you that some of the pirates were actually caught. They ran into a French naval ship that is familiar to many of our listeners. We listened a few weeks ago as that ship's crew ordered suspected pirates to stop.
(Soundbite of French naval officer)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Fishing vessel, fishing vessel. This is European warship on your port side. I request you to stop!
INSKEEP: Last week, that same ship successfully captured eight pirates as they tried to board a Panamanian cargo vessel. They had approached it in small boats calls skiffs. The captain, Alexis Beatrix, came to the phone to talk about the chase.
Lieutenant Commander ALEXIS BEATRIX (Captain, French frigate): We started to chase, to try to catch them, and we had to fire, to conduct an intimidation fire with small-caliber weapons, to make them clear that we intended them to stop.
INSKEEP: Intimidation fire, meaning you fired warning shots, you fired close to them, but not at them.
Lieutenant Commander BEATRIX: That's correct.
INSKEEP: Once you had dragged these eight men onboard and had questioned them, as I assume you did, or your crew did, who were they?
Lieutenant Commander BEATRIX: They did not speak English. Only one out of them was a little bit Arabic-capable, so it was very difficult to establish good understanding with them. What we learned is that they went from a north port of Somalia, and that is all what we could be sure, because they did not wear ID papers, etcetera, etcetera.
INSKEEP: So what have you done with the accused pirates once you had them onboard?
Lieutenant Commander BEATRIX: We accommodated them onboard the best way we can onboard a military vessel. Food, medical assistance, everything, and they were of course kept under surveillance for their own security, and for the security of the ship, of course.
INSKEEP: Is there a legal system under which they can be tried?
Lieutenant Commander BEATRIX: Yes. There is a state agreement between France and Somalia enabling transfer from a French unit, as mine, to the Somalian authorities.
INSKEEP: Lieutenant Commander, do you feel that you're making progress overall against piracy in that area?
Lieutenant Commander BEATRIX: Yes. About seven skiffs have been intercepted from the first of January this year, seven. And at least 30, three-zero, pirates have been disarmed. So it's a very clear step in the right direction.
INSKEEP: I wonder if you could draw me a picture, a word picture. What does it look like when you look out from the ship today? What is the sea like, how busy is it?
Lieutenant Commander BEATRIX: Today, the weather conditions are very good, either for us or for the pirates. That is to say, the sea state is low, the wind is low too. Good visibility. And some fishing activities are observed not very far from the corridor. One of our tasks is to check that these fishing activities, performed by small skiffs, are not a waiting position for potential pirate skiffs. That is one of their modus operandi, that is to try to look like local fishermen. But now we have a good ID. Our knowledge of all the area is improving day after day.
INSKEEP: Lieutenant Commander Alexis Beatrix is the captain of a French frigate that's part of a European Union effort against piracy in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. Thanks very much.
Lieutenant Commander BEATRIX: Oh, you're welcome.