Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pirates of Somalia Grow Bolder

"All you need is three guys and a little boat, and the next day you're millionaires."--Abdullahi Omar Qawden, a former captain in Somalia's long-defunct navy

No country seems immune from the continued banditry of the African pirates of Somalia, whose trade is capturing passing ships, taking them back to port, then ransoming them back to their owners. Because they favor large, slow, and bulky cargo ships filled with valuable goods, ransoms generally start at $1 million. About 250 ship’s crew members and 14 vessels are currently being held in the Pirate City of Eyl. More than 75 vessels have been captured this year alone, with the pirate’s latest taking a ship filled with $100 million dollars worth of Saudi Arabian oil.

The pirates are bold, well organized, and don't engage in infighting. Pirate crews consist of three types of people: former fisherman who know the waters off Somalia, former militia men who know weapons, and technical experts who understand computers, GPS systems, and other tech devices used in modern shipping. The pirates are also expanding their territory; high seas piracy now takes place up to 200 miles off the coast of Somalia. As you can tell from the picture above, the vessels used in pirate attacks are unsophisticated, small, and cheap.

The pirates enjoy high status in their country, where they are a major economic force with plenty of cash. Of course, Somalia doesn't have much of a government for the affected nations to negotiate with. Somalia is so lawless, that until recently its government abandoned the country and were living in Kenya.

UPDATE: India has sunk a suspected "mother ship" from which small boats are able to stage their attacks far out at sea.

2 Comments:

Blogger El Rider said...

I still find it shocking that these ships aren't prepared. We've been through this, for centuries. Recently the Caribean even had a bad piracy problem tied to the drug trade, Clancy's Clear and Present Danger touched on that. Here's my problem, I once spent some time in those Gulf Coast harbors (racing boats) and got to know people who spent time out in the Gulf, they were typically armed. I remember one skipper who kept a .50 cal. machine gun on board, his comment was something along the lines of "nobody ****s with you when they see a .50 cal. mounted on the bow." He kept the guns below decks while in harbor.

I also seem to recall that Blackbeard's head once hung from the bow of Royal Navy war ship as a warning to pirates, much more graphic than my friend from Biloxi but that much more effective. If the Western World cannot even muster the will to fight a few rag-tag looters in clapped out old boats then we are in a world of trouble. You would think that the Names from Lloyd's would be more vocal on this issue.

Nov 20, 2008, 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Publia said...

I suppose step number 1 might be to take tea with the pirates who surely could be reasoned with. Isn't that going to be the new way?

As far as Lloyd's goes (if they are underwriting these cargos and ships at all), no insurance can be sold there without a broker, and brokers get a percentage commission so there is little incentive for them to do anything if piracy leads to higher insurance costs.

Because so many countries have been targets, no one country seems to be affected enough to do anything.

While we have been through piracy for centuries, modern navies are going to have to study military history to figure out what to do. Except for the drug trade (which the Coast Guard handles), I think that militaries forgot how to deal with pirates a couple of centuries ago.

Or perhaps India will make a great name for itself, as it seems to have both the will and the ability to take a few of these pirates out.

Your story about the Gulf Coast reminds us how the history of piracy there still affects those who ply its waters. Perhaps a few of them should get into the consulting business.

Nov 20, 2008, 1:05:00 PM  

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