VLADIVOSTOK, June 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Pacific Fleet will send a third task force later this month to protect shipping routes from Somali pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden, a fleet commander said on Tuesday.
"Preparations are underway, and the task force will be dispatched later this month," said Viktor Sokolov.
The task force consists of a warship with two helicopters, a salvage tug, a tanker, and a naval infantry unit. The previous Pacific Fleet taskforce was led by the Admiral Panteleyev, an Udaloy-class destroyer.
In April, the destroyer seized a boat carrying 29 suspected pirates, believed to have been involved in an unsuccessful attack on a Russian-crewed oil tanker as it passed through the Gulf of Aden en route to Singapore.
The warship later prevented a pirate attack on a cargo vessel while escorting a convoy of six merchant ships through the Gulf of Aden.
Somalia has been without an effective government since the Revolutionary Socialist Party was overthrown in 1991. The internationally recognized federal government controls only the capital city of Mogadishu and part of central Somalia.
The United Nations has said that pirates collected $150 million in ransom payments from ship owners last year, while overall losses from piracy were estimated at $13-16 billion, including the soaring cost of insurance and protection for vessels, as well as sending ships on longer routes to avoid high-risk areas.
Around 35 warships from the navies of 16 countries are involved in anti-piracy operations off Somalia. According to the United Nations, Somali pirates carried out at least 120 attacks on ships in 2008.