Thursday, July 18, 2024

A den of pirates

The Gulf Of Aden
A den of pirates
0 Somali pirates’ range now covers more than one million square miles 0 Piracy cost the global economy about $5-7 billion dollars last year o Pressure mounted on Somali govt to step up its anti-piracy campaign o Many Somali lawmakers support the pirates and term them as ‘heroes’ o Some pvt companies launched security escort service for merchant ships
The history of Somalian piracy goes back to 1991 when the government of Somalia collapsed, leaving its nine million population in desperation. They had acute supply of food with much of their sea and coastline contaminated by European ships dumping toxic nuclear waste and overfishing by European and Asian trawlers breaking all norms.
The poor Somalis, many of them former fishermen, took up arms — first to fend off invading trawlers and dumping ships and then for easy bucks by hijacking vessels — and became the terrors of the Gulf of Aden. They found a safe refuge in Puntland, a backwater close to the gulf, from where they launch their sorties.
And today, the world is fighting to find a solution to the piracy that is costing the shipping industry so dearly, $ 238 million last year, and the global economy about $5-7 billion dollars, a UN estimation says.
Using force is both the easiest and the most difficult solution. It’s easiest because the international community can send their naval ships to guard the waters. The Americans and many European countries have already done that. The Indians, the Chinese and the Malaysians have added their ships to the fighting fleet. Bangladesh has also showed its willingness to the International Maritime Organisation to help to the cause after MV Jahan Moni was hijacked.
But it is also proving the most difficult as more and more ships are being taken hostage by the skinny, sea-worn pirates with their salt-rusted Kalshnikov and rocket launchers.
“The sea is a huge place and it is difficult to patrol the whole area unless you have support from inland. We have two Navy ships in Lebanon and we can dispatch them to Somalia,” a Bangladesh Navy high official said last night when asked about the effectiveness of patrolling. “The best option could be to post a few navy men on the merchant ships with guns to guard against the pirates. But then the international law does not permit such practices.”
There are also talks about arming merchant ships but arguments against it are also plenty. Many think it would make the pirates even more desperate and lead to bloodshed.
Seizing it as a business opportunity, some private companies have launched security escort service for merchant ships passing the Somali coast.
The company aims to earn as much as $100 million a year from its services that include strengthening the Somali customs and the maritime police through the creation of a coastguard unit to monitor and tax fishing boats operating in the Somali territorial waters and offering boats passing through a security service in return for payment.
Pressure has also mounted on Somali interim government to step up its own anti-piracy campaign. Somali lawmakers are redrafting a bill to make piracy illegal. The parliament refused its passage earlier. The bill proposes to declare foreign trawling in Somalia illegal.
But many Somali lawmakers support the pirates and term them as ‘heroes‘ keeping foreign invading trawlers off the coasts.
Under the proposed law, anyone caught in the act of piracy will be fined as much $500,000 and an imprisonment of up to 20 years.
But as days go on, the Somali pirates seem to be emboldened by the fact that very little could be done so far against them. Once they used to operate close to the shore. But now they use the captured ships as mother ships to base their members and launch attacks more than 1,000 miles off the coast, even close to India. Their range now covers more than one million square miles.
Rules of engagement are also pretty stiff and most pirates caught off their skiffs are let off the hook. You can’t prosecute them unless caught in the act even although they have machineguns and grenades in their boats.
However, a major effort is being taken to reconstruct Puntland and Somalia. Plans are being drawn to develop the regions, improve its health and education systems and invest in job creation.
Piracy Inc. offers work to thousands of Somalis, many of them closely associated with the pirates such as gunsmiths and boat makers.
But whatever efforts are being taken, the pirates are becoming bolder and bolder to the frustration of the shipping lines. And demand for attack on pirate base is peaking.
“I think there is going to be some type of retaliation,” a European diplomat in Kenya who trades ideas on anti-piracy strategies, told The New York Times recently. “I could see the Americans going after the pirate bosses, the organisers, maybe even blockade some of the ports that they use.”

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