Thursday, September 11, 2008

Those Undeterred Somali Pirates

I’ve reported recently on Task Force 150, a multinational naval operation aimed at putting a stop to Somali piracy off the Horn of Africa. The Danes have made several successful interventions to drive off the pirates and prevent ships from being hijacked.

But that hasn’t been enough to deter the pirates completely. According to Bloomberg:

Somali Pirates Hijacked 11 Ships With 200 Sailors, Bureau Says

Somali pirates hold at least 11 merchant ships with 200 sailors captive as international naval forces fail to secure the main trade route between Asia and Europe, the International Maritime Bureau said.

Commodity carriers and chemical tankers are among vessels that have been taken to hideouts and pirate bases along the East African country’s coast, Noel Choong, head of the bureau’s reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, said by telephone today. The number of ships being held is the most since the IMB began collating pirate-attack data in 1991.

“We are trying to put pressure on the United Nations together with the international community; only they can solve the problem,” Choong said. “It’s just unbelievable that this is happening.”
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Tankers shipping Middle East crude oil to Europe and the U.S. via Egypt’s Suez Canal must first sail through the Gulf of Aden, which lies between Somalia and Yemen. MISC Bhd, the world’s largest shipper of liquefied natural gas, stopped sailing through the gulf after two of its carriers were hijacked. Freight costs may rise should other owners do the same, as vessels would then sail greater distances on alternative routes.

The frequency of pirate attacks may be growing because owners have little option other than to pay ransoms to recover crews, cargo and ships, Choong said. Somalia, affected by civil war, doesn’t have a centralized government with which to tackle the problem.

“If you don’t pay pirates then you won’t get back your ship and crew and cargo,” he said. “If you pay pirates, you are encouraging piracy.”

And there’s the rub: so far the pirates have mostly been paid off, and the worst consequence they have faced is being chased away by gunboats.

It’s time to send a bunch of them off to collect their 72 virgins, pour encourager les autres.

Previous posts about the Somali pirates:

2005 Nov 5 Barbary Pirates Redux
    8 Update on the Somali Pirates
    14 The Mother Ship
2006 Mar 24 The Jamaica-Somalia Connection
  Apr 8 The Taliban, Somali-Style
  Jul 5 Pirates in the Strait
2007 Jun 5 Somali Pirates Take Danish Hostages
    6 The Territorial Waters of a Failed State
    8 Q-Ships for the Somali Coast?
    11 Pirates Demand Ransom for Danish Seamen
    13 Q-Ships, Pirates, and the Waters off Somalia
    25 The Danica White Runs Out of Food and Water
  Jul 11 Gossip-Mongers in Denmark
    21 The Danica White: Eight Weeks and Counting
  Aug 22 The Danica White Has Been Released
  Nov 24 Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Snaps
2008 Apr 21 A Spanish Danica White?
    29 Reputed $1.2 Million Paid to Free Spanish Hostages...
  May 2 A No-Pursuit Policy for Pirates
  Aug 23 Targeting the Somali Pirates
    23 More on Task Force 150
  Sep 8 Danish Ship Averts Pirate Attacks

Hat tip: VH.


Anonymous said...

Instead of taking a detour, wouldn't it be cheaper to hire mercenary soldiers as crew? After a few encounters, the remaining pirates would stay home.

Mikael said...

One must keep in mind that the patrol-area of TF150 is as large as the landmass of the USA. Plus for some strange reason Somalia is considered a sovereign state and its territorial waters is therefore out of bounds for the task force.

Henrik R Clausen said...

We are trying to put pressure on the United Nations together with the international community; only they can solve the problem.

I guess this guy never heard the words 'navy' or 'gunboat' :)

Seriously, this ongoing use of 'pressure' in international politics is getting on my nerves. I guess it means "You ought to have bad conscience about what you're doing. Please stop."

Another interpretation is that 'pressure' constitutes a vague threat. That's not very effective either, we need concrete threats.

As for Somalia being a 'sovereign state', that argument has been debated quite a bit in Denmark. A duty of a sovereign state is to wipe out pirates and the like. If the state doesn't fulfill that obligation, other states have the right to take over the task.

In short, I believe international law warrants military operations to the fullest extent in this case. Danish Peoples' Party has that opinion.

Western Initiatives said...

This is the Barbary Pirates all over again. Time to send in the gunboats.