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Piracy in Somaly

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18

Report

Piracy in Somalia

Threatening global trade, feeding local wars

INDEX

Summary

Introduction

1. Piracy around Somalia

1.1 How the pirates operate

1.2 Where the pirates originate

1.3 Ransoms

1.4 New trends

1.5 The international response

Box 1: A victim’s story

2. Why it matters to the international community

2.1 What piracy does to Somalia

2.2 What piracy does to international trade

2.3 Potential environmental catastrophe

2.4 Possible co-opting by international terrorist networks

Box 2: Private security and Somali piracy

3. Options for the international community

3.1 Organize shipping into a safe lane

3.2 Provide a coastguard for Somalia

3.3 A large naval presence

3.4 Pay no ransoms

3.5 Do nothing

4.Anti-piracy measures. Military presence

Conclusion

List of addresses

Summary points

· Piracy off the coast of Somalia has more than doubled in 2008; so far
over 60 ships have been attacked. Pirates are regularly demanding and
receiving million-dollar ransom payments and are becoming more
aggressive and assertive.

· The international community must be aware of the danger that Somali
pirates could become agents of international terrorist networks. Already
money from ransoms is helping to pay for the war in Somalia, including
funds to the US terror-listed Al-Shabaab.

· The high level of piracy is making aid deliveries to drought-stricken
Somalia ever more difficult and costly. The World Food Programme has
already been forced to temporarily suspend food deliveries. Canada is
now escorting WFP deliveries but there are no plans in place to replace
their escort when it finishes later this year.

· The danger and cost of piracy (insurance premiums for the Gulf of Aden
have increased tenfold) mean that shipping could be forced to avoid the
Gulf of Aden/Suez Canal and divert around the Cape of Good Hope. This
would add considerably to the costs of manufactured goods and oil from
Asia and the Middle East. At a time of high inflationary pressures, this
should be of grave concern.

· Piracy could cause a major environmental disaster in the Gulf of Aden
if a tanker is sunk or run aground or set on fire. The use of ever more
powerful weaponry makes this increasingly likely.

· There are a number of options for the international community but
ignoring the problem is not one of them. It must ensure that WFP
deliveries are protected and that gaps in supply do not occur.

Introduction

Piracy Piracy is defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of
the Sea (UNCLOS) as:

‘ Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of
depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of
a private ship or a

private aircraft, and directed:

i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against
persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;

ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the
jurisdiction of any State;

(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of
an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;

(c) any act inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described
in sub-paragraph (a) or (b).

Piracy is considered to occur in international waters while Armed
Robbery at Sea occurs in territorial waters or in port. off the coast of
Somalia is growing at an alarming rate and threatens to drastically
disrupt international trade. It provides funds that feed the vicious war
in Somalia and could potentially become a weapon of international
terrorism or a cause of environmental disaster. For long piracy has been
a problem mostly associated with the Malacca Straits between Indonesia
and Malaysia, but it is now a growing issue for fragile African states.
Up to 25 September 2008, 61 actual and attempted hijacks had been
recorded by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International
Maritime Bureau (IMB) . In the last week of August 2008 alone four
vessels were captured, and the year has seen Somali piracy rise up the
news agenda, propelled by the capture of the Luxury yacht Le Ponant and
the kidnap of a German couple who had been sailing their yacht through
the Gulf of Aden. Since the end of 2007 piracy activity has shifted away
from the Mogadishu port area and into the Gulf of Aden. The actual
number of attacks could well be higher: not all incidents will have been
reported as there is much illegal activity in Somali waters, and the
official statistics do not measure the impact of piracy on Somali
coastal trade. Some 16,000 ships a year pass through the Gulf of Aden,
carrying oil from the Middle East and goods from Asia to Europe and
North America. So one of the most important trade routes in the world is
now threatened by the chronic instability in Somalia. Piracy has been a
problem in Somali waters for at least ten years. However, the number of
attempted and successful attacks has risen over the last three years.
The only period during which piracy virtually vanished around Somalia
was during the six months of rule by the Islamic Courts Union in the
second half of 2006. This indicates that a functioning government in
Somalia is capable of controlling piracy. After the removal of the
courts piracy re-emerged. With little functioning government, long,
isolated, sandy beaches and a population that is both desperate and used
to war, Somalia is a perfect environment for piracy to thrive.

1. Piracy around Somalia

1.1 How the pirates operate

Pirates operate using small skiffs with powerful outboard engines that
can be pulled up onto the beach. These boats are fast and maneuverable
but they lack the range necessary for richer pickings. Pirates now
regularly use ‘mother ships’ to increase their range. The IMB recently
put out a warning identifying potential mother ships. IMB, Pictures of
suspected pirate mother vessels, 13 August 2008.
http://www.icc-ccs.org/main/piracy_al.php?newsid=20, accessed 21 August
2008. These are generally fishing trawlers that the pirates capture
closer to shore and then use as staging posts for attacks further out to
sea. Reports from a Yemeni fishing vessel that appears to have been used
as a mother ship indicate that the pirates patrolled the entrance to the
Gulf of Aden in the captured vessel and then deserted it in their skiffs
once a suitable target was spotted. The use of mother ships helps to
explain how pirates have managed to increase their range so
dramatically; the old warning to stay at least 50 nautical miles from
the coast has now been replaced by warnings to stay at least 200
nautical miles away. It is generally thought that from sighting pirates
to being boarded takes approximately fifteen minutes. Such a short space
of time helps to explain why even with international patrols in the area
ships are still captured. To prevent an attack a naval vessel would need
to be close and have a helicopter ready to go at moment’s notice. This
is not to say that prevention is impossible: the USS Peleliu was able to
scare pirates away from the Gem of Kilakari on 8 August 2008 after
launching helicopters, but the Peleliu was only ten miles away and able
to respond quickly. In other circumstances captains must take whatever
evasive action they can. In one instance a tugboat put itself into a
high-speed spin and continued until the attackers gave up and left.
Other less nauseous ways of preventing boarding include sonic cannon and
water guns. Sonic cannon can only point in one direction, however, so an
attack by more than one skiff renders them ineffective. The other
serious complaint about using non-lethal weapons to deter pirates is the
lack of protection they offer to crew members, who become sitting
targets for pirates with automatic weapons and rocket launchers while
operating the device. It is possible to identify the factors that make a
ship more vulnerable: low sides, low speed, low crew numbers and lack of
adequate watch-keeping. Pirates have consistently targeted ships with
low sides (including Le Ponant and the Danica White) as these are easier
to board from their own low skiffs. At present it seems that scaling the
high sides of large oil tankers is beyond their capabilities. It should
be pointed out that this did not prevent them from taking speculative
pot shots at the Japanese tanker MV Takayama with rocket-propelled
grenades (RPGs). Johan Lillkung, ‘They opened fire with machine guns and
rockets’, The Observer. 27 April 2008.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/27/somalia. Low speeds also
make a vessel more vulnerable; the pirates’ small vessels can move fast
and sluggish transport tankers and pleasure yachts will have difficulty
evading determined attackers. There is little that a ship-owner with a
slow, low-sided ship can do in such circumstances. But some problems can
be ameliorated. Low crew numbers have become increasingly common as
higher insurance premiums and fuel costs cut into ship-owner’s margins.
Without a full complement of crew it is impossible to maintain a
sufficient watch in dangerous waters, making evasive measures less
effective.

1.2 Where the pirates originate

Puntland, the semi-autonomous region in the northeast of the country,
appears to be the base for most pirates in Somalia. A small number of
acts of piracy in the Gulf of Aden may originate in Yemen but most
illegal activity originating there is connected to fishing and
protecting fishing grounds. Traditionally, most pirates, including the
infamous Afweyne, come from Harardheere (Xaradheere) and Hobyo in
Central Somalia – although Afweyne is reportedly unlikely to be involved
in current operations. The Mayor of Eyl has asserted that ‘the pirates
who hijacked the ships are the same ones who received ransom payments
before’. This would support other reports that the pirates are not
engaged only in one-off attacks but are in the business for the long
term. The fact that the pirates originate from Puntland is significant
as this is also the home region of President Abdullahi Yusuf. As one
expert said, ‘money will go to Yusuf as a gesture of goodwill to a
regional leader – so even if the higher echelons of Somali government
and clan structure are not directly involved in organizing piracy, they
probably do benefit. Puntland is one of the poorest areas of Somalia, so
the financial attraction of piracy is strong. Somalia’s fishing industry
has collapsed in the last fifteen years and its waters are being heavily
fished by European, Asian and African ships. Some pirates have claimed
that they are involved in protecting Somalia’s natural resources and
that ransom payments should be viewed as legitimate taxation. Indeed the
pirates captured by France following the Le Ponant incident had a manual
of good conduct. In any case, in a region where legitimate business is
difficult, where drought means agriculture is nothing more than
subsistence farming, and instability and violence make death a very real
prospect, the dangers of engaging in piracy must be weighed against the
potentially massive returns. (An unsubstantiated rumour offers a further
hint as to the emergence of piracy in Somalia and illustrates how good
intentions can backfire. In the 1990s a private security firm had a
contract to establish coastguard facilities. The exercise fizzled out
but some analysts now trace the nautical skills of the pirates to that
experiment and anecdotal evidence suggests that equipment meant for the
coastguard has been used in piracy expeditions. Captured sailors have
also reported that pirates who held them claimed to have been former
coastguards – see Box 1.) The small village of Eyl and others right up
to the tip of Somalia have played host to many recently hijacked ships.
The pirates have generally taken captured vessels to small ports like
Eyl and held them there until ransom has been paid. The notable
exception to this rule was the case of Juen K. and Sabine M., the German
achters taken into the mountains and held on land ordays until they were
released on 9 August following a ransom payment believed to be between
alf-a-million and one million dollars.14 Clearly, the difference here
was that the vessel itself held no value but the two sailors did.

1.3 Ransoms

If Somalia provides the perfect environment for piracy, it is the
payment of massive ransoms that provides the motivation. A few years ago
ransoms were in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars range. So
far in 2008 they have hovered between half-a-million and two million
dollars, although recent reports indicate that demands have again shot
up; $3.5 million has been demanded for the release of the MV Stella
Maris which has been held since 20 July.15 Total ransom payments for
2008 probably lie in the range of US$18–30 million. Inflation of ransom
demands makes this an ever more lucrative business. Shipping firms, and
sometimes governments, are prepared to pay these sums since they are
relatively small compared with the value of a ship, let alone the life
of crew members. The internationalshipping association BIMCO has said
that the payment of ransoms has probably exacerbated the situation and
would prefer the industry not to pay, but it recognizes that there is
little alternative as long as any sort of rescue or intervention is
unlikely. As pirates become more brazen, it seems unlikely that shipping
firms will be prepared to risk the loss of life and equipment for the
greater good.

1.4 New trends

The most noticeable change in the past year has been the shift in the
main area of activity. Whereas in 2007 a lot of piracy was focused on
Southern Somalia and Mogadishu port where, according to the UN
monitoring group, port officials helped facilitate several attacks,4
Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council
resolution 1766 (2007). 24 April 2008.

http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N08/290/68/PDF/N0829068.pdf?OpenE
lement. in 2008 the vast majority of attacks have taken place in the
Gulf of Aden. This makes sense since, as noted above, the Gulf is a
major shipping route with around 16,000 vessels passing through each
year and offers much richer pickings than Mogadishu. The funnel-like
shape of the Gulf also means that shipping is easier to locate and hunt
down than in the sea off Somalia’s southern coast. As will be discussed
below, this shift in focus should be of great concern to the
international community.

The pirates have improved their equipment and now use GPS systems and
satellite phones. It is also likely that they are plugged into an
international network that feeds information from ports in the Gulf,
Europe and Asia back to Somalia. All this, coupled with their use of
mother ships, now gives them a greater ability to find and capture
potential targets. Pirates are no longer simply opportunists; their
operations are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are likely to
continue developing in this direction if responses do not change.
Establishing how organized the piracy gangs are is difficult but the
growth in activity in 2008 seems to indicate that this is becoming an
increasingly professional operation. Some reports say numbers of pirates
have increased from the hundreds to the thousands.

Worryingly, it appears that pirates are becoming more aggressive; East
Africa analysts report that pirates are using MANPADS (Man Portable Air
Defence Systems) in territorial waters and several recent reports
indicate that they have begun to use RPGs during their attacks. In the
past their method of attack was limited to firing automatic weapons as
they approached a vessel, and the use of grenade launchers introduces a
much greater risk of loss of life and damage to property. The firing of
RPGs at tankers (such as at the Takayama) should be a reason for grave
concern, particularly because of the risk of fire. In general captured
crew are well treated, although the enormous psychological strain should
not be underestimated, but two examples demonstrate that there is
nothing romantic about being held by pirates. The two German yachters
referred to earlier reported that they had been beaten, and crew aboard
the Lehmann Timber reported that they lacked food and water and that
their captors were becoming increasingly erratic as their captivity
dragged on. 16 Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to
Security Council resolution 1766 (2007). 24 April 2008.

http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N08/290/68/PDF/N0829068.pdf?OpenE
lement.

The first reported fatality was reported by the Malaysian International
Shipping Corporation (MISC) onAugust 2008 after pirates had boarded a
palm oil tanker three days earlier. If pirates are becoming more
ruthless it is likely to be only a matter of time before more people are
killed. And operating in an area full of rich pickings and with enormous
rewards on offer seems likely to point to a trajectory of increasing
ruthlessness.

1.5The international response

The international community has made several attempts to deal with the
issue of piracy around Somalia. The most successful has been escorts for
World Food Programme ships which had been unable to enter Somali waters
until France, Denmark, the Netherlands and most recently Canada agreed
to provide naval escorts from November 2007 to June 2008. A more general
approach has focused on Combined Taskforce 150 (CTF150), a coalition
naval taskforce covering the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea,
Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. CTF150’s primary responsibility is to
assist in the ‘war on terror’, so piracy is lower on their list of
priorities. However some of the roughly fifteen ships making up CTF150
have been involved in deterring pirate attacks. To strengthen the hand
of international naval forces, on 2 June 2008 the UN Security Council
passed the US/France-sponsored resolution 1816 that gives foreign
warships the right to enter Somali waters ‘for the purposes of
repressing acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea’ by ‘all necessary
means’ UN SC Resolution 1816.
http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,UNSC,,SOM,,48464c622,0.html. The
most recent initiative involves the establishment of a ‘Maritime
Security Patrol Area’ (MSPA) which coalition navies will patrol. The
hope is that shipping will stay in these zones and hence be in range of
military assistance if they are threatened. To date these measures do
not seem to have had much impact, although it is too early to comment on
the efficacy of the MSPA.

The hijack of two Malaysian tankers prompted Malaysia to send three
ships to the Gulf of Aden in September 2008; however, these will only
have responsibility for escorting MISC ships.24 In recent years India
has begun to take a greater interest in the African side of the Indian
Ocean Rim for a number of reasons including a desire to compete with
China, but the danger of piracy is also of concern. The Indian navy has
indicated a willingness to send support to the Gulf of Aden. Indeed it
has gone so far as tore mind the government that it is ready to help
ships carrying Indian nationals. However, analysts assert that the
Indian government is reluctant to involve itself with the internal
affairs of another country.

To date France is the country that has taken the most robust stand
against piracy off Somalia. Following the ransom payment and the release
of Le Ponant, French naval special forces tracked down and arrested six
pirates who are now awaiting trial in France. Again, when a French
pleasure yacht was captured on 2 September, President Sarkozy authorized
a successful assault on the boat that rescued the sailors, killed one
pirate and captured the rest. Although French action is robust, it is
unlikely to act as a deterrent for future attacks since the potential
rewards of piracy still far outweigh the potential risks. So far the two
operations have not resulted in the death of a hostage but that is a
danger that must be considered before future operations are launched.
Resources concentrated on preventing piracywill produce greater benefits
than those used on dramatic rescues. The EU has established a mission
under the ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy) to provide a
coordination cell (EU NAVCO) for the fight against piracy. 29 Official
Journal of the European Union L 252/39, 20 September 2008.
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/JOIndex.do.

Coordination of the different naval and air assets in the region could
help to improve the efficacy of the fight against piracy. However, at
present this cell consists of Commander Andres Breijo-Claur, seconded
from the Spanish navy, and only four others, who will receive only
60,000 euro to facilitate their work. While it is to be welcomed that
the EU is taking some action, and the difficulty in organizing common
defence action is recognized, this effort may well turn out to be more
symbolic than practical. The area of coordination is one in which the EU
could provide very useful assistance if the cell is properly staffed and
financed.

Box 1: A victim’s story

Captain Darch was the skipper of the Svitzer Korsakov when it was
boarded by pirates on 1 February 2008. He and his five crew mates were
held for 47 days, until 18 March.

At about 3pm on Friday 1 February, seventy miles north of Cape
Gwardafuy, I was alerted by a shout. On our starboard side were five
pirates in a six-metre white plastic boat powered by 48hp Yamaha
engines. I thrashed the tug to the left, then right, forcing them to
sheer away. This cat and mouse game continued until another boat with
four more approached. I knew we couldn’t avoid them so I stopped our
engine. The pirates next attempted to winch their boats to ours but only
succeeded in dumping their spare ammunition into the sea. Later the
first onto to the bridge said; ‘I am Andrew and speak English. This is
Omar, our Captain. Do as you are told.’

On the orders of ‘Capt. Omar’ we moved south. By late Sunday we arrived
in Eyl where15 more pirates boarded our ship. From then on around twenty
were always aboard, including their personal Mullah. I convinced Omar to
let us go north to Gabbac, a more sheltered spot. One pirate called
Ahmed told us he had been in the coastguard, and only Ahmed and one or
two others who had also been coastguards understood our engines. From
then on we were trailed by a US warship and smaller Somali boats
resupplied us.

The pirates, armed with AK47s, spent every day chewing khat. We survived
on cigarettes, water, goat, camel’s milk and chapattis. Our relationship
with the pirates was mostly amicable except for one incident. Omar kept
saying ‘go on – go on’ but the anchorage wasn’t safe. He hit me across
the back of my head. I said we wouldn’t go anywhere if he hit me again
and he didn’t. Later another man called Omar joined us. He said he was
there to make sure we were looked after. During the ordeal, I lost
weight but was never really hungry. Genuinely, I think they just needed
the money.

Ten days after our capture the Chief Engineer – Fred – and I hatched a
plan. I tried to get a coded message to the Americans via Copenhagen. At
midnight on the 11th we blacked out the ship and blockaded ourselves
into the ballast tank. We listened for the attack, but all we could hear
was the Somalis trying to get at us. At five in the afternoon we tried
to give ourselves up but they had bolted us in.

We thumped on the door and they let us out at seven. After this we lost
all our privileges and they followed us everywhere. Sometimes, as time
dragged on, the younger pirates suggested killing the Russians and
sinking the boat. They thought Fred and I were more valuable. Every day
we talked about the ransom. Initially they asked for $2.5 million but
Fred convinced them the company would never give that much. During the
negotiations one time the new interpreter (Geli), a schoolteacher, said:
‘Look, here this is your last chance – give us the money in three days
or the crew will be shot, you can put that in your pipe and smoke it.’
The negotiations were handled by Control Risks who have experience at
that. They later tried $900,000 but eventually settled for $678,000. The
money was assembled as cash in Dubai where they hoped a Somali
businessman would handle the delivery for them, but no one would. In the
end the money came on a boat. It came alongside with the crew hidden.
Our pirates went over and moved the money across. Now the pirates had
the boat, the crew and the money! All night the pirates divided the
money between themselves. Most left in the morning but Omar and the
schoolteacher said it wasn’t safe for them to go ashore here, so we
dropped them further north. Next day we met up with the warship. I asked
why they didn’t attack; one guy said they hadn’t received the message;
another said: ‘Even if we had received it we’d need an order from higher
up to do anything.’ We were held for 47 days. We went from Oman to
Dubai, where we met our wives. I said it was the trip to end all trips
but I’ve been on a few since then.

Source: Interview with the author, 15 September 2008

2. Why it matters to the international community

There are deeper reasons why the international community needs to take
heed of this problem than simple law enforcement. They can be divided
into four areas:

what piracy does to Somalia;

what it does to international trade, especially oil;

the danger to the environment;

the potential terrorist threat.

2.1 What piracy does to Somalia

The danger of Somali waters in late 2007 forced the WFP to suspend food
deliveries by sea (delivery by land is just as risky and is impractical
for transporting large quantities of food aid). According to the WFP,
Somalia will require at least 185,000 tonnes of food aid in 2008. This
was temporarily solved by the naval escorts for WFP vessels mentioned
above. The WFP was forced to stop for two months when the Netherlands
completed its stint until Canada announced that the HMCS Ville de Quйbec
would escort WFP deliveries. Without the naval escorts and the regular
delivery of food aid, Somalia’s food stocks were seriously threatened.
In a country without a functioning central government that is suffering
from drought and war, and with over a million internally displaced
people,8 Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Internal Displacement
– Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2007, April 2008.
http://www.internal-displacement.org/. imported food aid is essential.
The uncertainty surrounding escorts for WFP ships needs to end and
escorts should be pledged in advance so that dangerous gaps in food
delivery can be avoided. If the international community does only one
thing, then ensuring the safe delivery of food aid should be the
priority. Somalia is one of the most dangerous and violent places in the
world. Arms are freely available throughout the country and there are
almost daily reports of explosions, murders, skirmishes, battles and
kidnappings across the country. While pirates themselves keep the
majority of the funds they generate, a significant amount is passed on
to important locals, some of whom are involved in the ongoing war. These
regular injections of cash undoubtedly help to finance the war. Some
reports31 link piracy money to the US terror-listed Al Shabaab, which
emerged as a youth militia during the rule of the Islamic Courts and is
now fighting an insurgency against Ethiopian and government troops.
Eradicating piracy will not stop the war, but it may reduce the money
available for arms purchases.

The lack of maritime security also allows a busy people- and
arms-smuggling trade to flourish and encourages illegal fishing in
Somali waters. Greater efforts by the international community to combat
piracy should have a positive impact in these areas as well.

2.2 What piracy does to international trade

Clearly a company whose cargo is prevented from reaching its destination
on time will lose money. Add to this the cost of paying ransoms and
already the damaging economic effect of Somali piracy can be seen. The
consequences are not limited only to companies whose vessels are
hijacked; of wider concern is the growth of insurance premiums for ships
that need to pass through the Gulf of Aden. The danger means that war
risk insurance premiums must now be paid: premiums are reported to have
risen tenfold in a year. Miles Costello, ‘Shipping insurance costs soar
with piracy surge off Somalia’, The Times, 11 September 2008.

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_
and_finance/article4727372.ece.

If the cost of extra insurance becomes prohibitive, or the danger
simply too great, shipping companies may avoid the Gulf of Aden and take
the long route to Europe and North America around the Cape of Good Hope.
Indeed this option is mentioned by shipping industry insiders as a very
real possibility. The extra weeks of travel and fuel consumption would
add considerably to the cost of transporting goods. At a time when the
price of oil is a major concern, anything that could contribute to a
further rise in prices must be considered very serious indeed.

2.3 Potential environmental catastrophe

Large oil tankers pass through the Gulf of Aden and the danger exists
that a pirate attack could cause amajor oil spill in what is a very
sensitive and important ecosystem. During the attack on the Takayama the
ship’s fuel tanks were penetrated and oil spilled into the sea. The
consequences of amore sustained attack could be much worse. As pirates
become bolder and use ever more powerful weaponry a tanker could be set
on fire, sunk or forced ashore, any of which could result in an
environmental catastrophe that would devastate marine and bird life for
years to come. The pirates’ aim is to extort ransom payments and to date
that has been their main focus; however, the possibility that they could
destroy shipping is very real.

2.4 Possible co-opting by international terrorist networks

The other worst-case scenario is that pirates become agents of
international terrorism. It should be emphasized that to date there is
no firm evidence of this happening. However, in a region that saw the
attacks on the USS Cole, seaborne terrorism needs to be taken very
seriously. For example, a large ship sunk in the approach to the Suez
Canal would have a devastating impact on international trade. Terrorism
at sea could take many forms: direct attacks on naval or commercial
shipping, such as the 6 October 2002 attack on the MV Limburg, ‘Yemen
ship attack “was terrorism”’, BBC,13 October 2003.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2324431.stm.hostages from
pleasure boats being used as bargaining chips for terrorists or
high-profile victims of an atrocity, and hijacked ships being used as
floating weapons. Terrorist networks could also use the financial
returns of piracy to fund their activities around the world.

The potentially massive consequences of this scenario must be taken into
account along with the more likely scenario that piracy money is being
routed to Al Shabaab. As has been seen over the last year, pirates in
Somalia have become ever more dangerous, but it is impossible to tell
what will happen next. It is best to act to prevent the worst-case
scenarios rather than try to solve the problem once it has escalated.

Box 2: Private security and Somali piracy

Private security firms have a long history of involvement in attempting
to combat Somali piracy. To date, however, none have been very effective
and in the majority of cases it is hard to see that anything at all was
achieved.

Secopex

This French private security firm signed an agreement in May 2008 with
TFG President Abdullahi Yusuf to provide maritime security for Somalia
and a bodyguard for the president. The TFG insists that the deal will be
paid for by the international community, but so far the $50–200 million
needed has not been forthcoming.

Topcat

In November 2005 the TFG signed a $50 million or $55 million contract
with the US security firm Topcat to target ‘mother ships’ being used by
Somali pirates. The chief executive of Topcat told the BBC, ’We will end
the piracy very quickly; there is no question about that’
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4471536.stm). Topcat’s deployment was
blocked by the US State Department, which judged that it would breach
the arms embargo on Somalia.

Al-Habiibi Marine Service

This Saudi-based company was appointed by the government of Puntland in
December 2005. However its employees were unable to take up their
positions in Somalia.

SOMCAN – Somali Canadian Coastguard

SOMCAN held a contract from the government of Puntland from 2002 to 2005
to provide coastguard facilities for Puntland. Its effectiveness was
called into question as three of the company’s employees were sentenced
to ten years in jail in Thailand for piracy, although they claimed to
have been protecting a Thai fishing boat.

Puntland International Development Corporation PIDC was contracted in
2000 by the government of Puntland to combat piracy. It subcontracted
the work to Hart Security.

HART Security Hart undertook to provide training for a 70-man maritime
force in Puntland from November 1999. A vessel was secured and arms were
procured through local arms markets. Hart staff took up residence in
Somalia. The scheme was supposed to be funded through the collection of
fishing dues. Hart wrapped up its operations in June 2002 when it became
unclear if a new administration in Puntland had the authority to honour
their contract.

3. Options for the international community

Although the international community must recognize that only a
political solution in Somalia offers a long-term solution to the issue
of piracy, it is also crucial to understand that measures can be taken
to improve the situation while efforts continue towards a political
settlement. Set out below are a number of options that could be
considered by the international community, the African Union and
Somalia’s neighbors to reduce the risks of piracy in the Gulf of Aden
and off the coast of Somalia. It may be that elements from each option
could be adopted.

3.1 Organize shipping into a safe lane

At the end of August 2008 coalition naval forces in the Gulf of Aden
announced that they had established a ‘Maritime Security Patrol Area’
(MSPA) which would be patrolled by coalition warships and aircraft.
Following a standard route should make it easier for international
forces in the area to monitor shipping and respond to distress calls.
Problems with this approach arise if the international presence is too
light. Shipping organized in a lane would potentially offer an easier
target for pirates and, as one senior naval commander explained, ‘the
pirates will just change their tactics’. The approach will also fail to
reduce the danger for ships steaming north-south rather than east-west.
However, this move is to be welcomed. The international community should
recognize that even if attacks decrease the threat will not have
disappeared, and it will need to remain vigilant until Somalia has a
full political settlement.

3.2 Provide a coastguard for Somalia

In the absence of a reliable and long-term government of Somalia it is
unlikely that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has the capacity
to operate effective coastguard facilities. An effective option may be
to create an internationally sanctioned and administered coastguard for
Somalia. This could be run by the UN or African Union and established
with external funds. The cost of running a coastguard could be met, at
least in part, from collecting fishing dues and import revenue. The
money and the force could be held in trust for Somalia. Clearly lessons
can be learned from the previous experience of private military
companies trying to provide maritime security (see Box 2); hence this
option would need to be firmly under the control of an international
body.

3.3 A large naval presence

A proposal popular for its simplicity and straightforwardness is for the
deployment of a much larger multinational naval force in the Gulf of
Aden and along the Somali coast with a specific mandate to combat
piracy. At present the 12–15 ships of Combined Taskforce 150 are
primarily involved in the war on terror and combating piracy is an
ancillary concern. A much larger dedicated fleet would be likely to
reduce the incidence of piracy but is almost certainly prohibitively
expensive. It seems more realistic to hope for some augmentation of the
current force to patrol the MSPA and perhaps the ongoing discussions in
Europe and India will produce such a result.

3.4 Pay no ransoms

This option has been suggested by the shipping industry. Certainly it
seems likely that if ransom payments stopped, the incentives to be
involved in piracy would decrease.

Two problems are evident here. The first is that there is no reason why
pirates would not change their tactics and, copying examples from
Indonesia and elsewhere, begin to see the value not in ransom but in
capturing ships and creating phantom ships, where a stolen ship is
re-registered and used to carry new cargoes which are then stolen,35 or
simply targeting vessels to steal their cargo. The second problem is of
course that non-payment could very well include the loss of life. It
seems unlikely that any shipping company wants to be the first to refuse
to pay when the price could be so high. However, a concerted effort to
deflate prices (there is no need to pay exactly what is demanded) could
have a positive impact.

3.5 Do nothing

Accepting that the only real solution lies in a political solution
inside Somalia, the international community could calculate that some
forty ships captured out of 16,000 is such a small number that the
resources required to protect them would be wasted. However, as we have
seen, the issue of piracy is not divorced from Somalia’s internal
problems, and the potential for an environmental disaster, a terrorist
attack or major disruption of trade and subsequent increase in oil
prices makes the case for preventative action a strong one.

4. Anti-piracy measures. Military presence

In response to the increased activity of the INS Tabar, India sought to
augment its naval force in the Gulf of Aden by deploying the larger INS
Mysore to patrol the area. Somalia also added India to its list of
states, including the U.S. and France, who are permitted to enter its
territorial waters, extending up to 12 nautical miles (22 km) from the
coastline, in an effort to check piracy. An Indian naval official
confirmed receipt of a letter acceding to India’s prerogative to check
such piracy. “We had put up a request before the Somali government to
play a greater role in suppressing piracy in the Gulf of Aden in view of
the United Nations resolution. The TFG government gave its nod
recently.” India also expressed consideration to deploy up to four more
warships in the region.Similarly, Russia also chose to send more
warships to combat piracy near Somalia. This announcement followed the
International Maritime Bureau terming the menace as having gone “out of
control.” Germany said it was willing to add 1,400 troops to join an
E.U. mission in the area that would begin in December. Africom
commander, General William Ward, added that the United States was
concerned about the rise in piracy, and was involved in multilateral
efforts to provide security, “The United States is participating in
those activities currently, but again, that is not specifically being
controlled by the United States Africa Command.” A maritime conference
was also held in Mombasa to discuss the rising concern of regional
piracy with a view to give regional and world governments
recommendations to deal with the menace. The International Transport
Workers Federation (ITWF) organized the regional an African maritime
unions’ conference, a first of its kind in Africa. Godfrey Matata
Onyango, executive secretary of the Northern Corridor Transport
Coordination Authority said that “We cannot ignore to discuss the piracy
menace since it poses a huge challenge to the maritime industry and if
not controlled, it threats to chop off the regional internal trade. The
cost of shipping will definitely rise as a result of the increased war
insurance premium due to the high risk off the Gulf of Aden.” Pakistan
offered the services of Pakistan Navy to the United Nations in order to
help combat the piracy in Somalia. Pakistan had a number of conditions
that had to be met before it would get involved though. On December 16,
2008, the China’s Xinhua News Agency announced that China was “seriously
considering sending naval ships to the Gulf of Aden and waters off the
Somali coast for escorting operations in the near future”, in
retaliation to the seizure of Hong Kong and Chinese ships. China
announced on 18 December 2008, that it would be deploying naval forces
to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia. Chinese state media has
suggested that a force of two destroyers and a supply ship will be sent
to join anti-piracy operations off the coast.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somali_pirate

Conclusion

Whatever the international community decides to do, it must not be at
the expense of efforts to secure a political solution inside Somalia.
The most powerful weapon against piracy will be peace and opportunity in
Somalia, coupled with an effective andforce and judiciary. Containing or
ignoring Somalia and its problems is not an option that will end well.
Piracy is a very real threat to seafarers, the shipping industry, the
environment, international trade and most of all Somalia and Somalis.
There is no single solution, but this paper has highlighted some of the
actions that may assist in reducing the threat. If nothing else, it is
essential that the international community formulate a plan to ensure
that the supply of food aid to Somalia is not interrupted. In the next
three months it is of paramount importance that a replacement for Canada
is found to escort WFP ships. If there is no permanent solution to the
issue of escorting WFP ships, then Somalis will starve and the already
severe problems in the region are likely to get worse. The international
community cannot view the issue of Somali piracy as a sideline issue.
The danger that international shipping will avoid the Gulf of Aden and
that the subsequent increased costs will be passed on to consumers
should be of grave concern during a time of economic uncertainty. The
potential environmental damage from a botched attack could be
catastrophic and long-lasting. And if the nightmare scenario occurs and
Somali pirates become tools of international terrorism, failure to act
now will seem very reckless.

List of addresses

1.IMB, Pictures of suspected pirate mother vessels, 13 August 2008.
http://www.icc-ccs.org/main/piracy_al.php?newsid=20, accessed 21 August
2008.

2. Johan Lillkung,«They opened fire with machine guns and rockets» , The
Observer. 27 April 2008.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/27/somalia.

3.Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council
resolution 1766 (2007). 24 April 2008.

http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N08/290/68/PDF/N0829068.pdf?OpenE
lement.

4.Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council
resolution 1766 (2007). 24 April 2008.

http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N08/290/68/PDF/N0829068.pdf?OpenE
lement.

5.UN SC Resolution 1816.
http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,UNSC,,SOM,,48464c622,0.html.

6. Official Journal of the European Union L 252/39, 20 September 2008.

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/JOIndex.do.

7.Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Internal Displacement –
Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2007, April 2008.

http://www.internal-displacement.org/.

8.Miles Costello, «Shipping insurance costs soar with piracy surge off
Somalia» , The Times, 11 September 2008.

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_
and_finance/article4727372.ece.

9.Miles Costello, «Shipping insurance costs soar with piracy surge off
Somalia» , The Times, 11 September 2008.

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_
and_finance/article4727372.ece.

10. Yemen ship attack «was terrorism» BBC,13 October 2003.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2324431.stm.

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