|Suspected pirates keep their hands in the air as directed by the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) as the visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) team prepares to apprehend them.|
Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been a threat to international shipping since the second phase of the Somali Civil War in the early 21st century. Since 2005, many international organizations, including the International Maritime Organization and the World Food Programme, have expressed concern over the rise in acts of piracy. Piracy has impeded the delivery of shipments and increased shipping expenses, costing an estimated $6.6 to $6.9 billion a year in global trade per Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP). According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), a veritable industry of profiteers has also risen around the piracy.
Insurance companies, in particular, have profited from the pirate attacks, as insurance premiums have increased significantly.A United Nations report and several news sources have suggested that piracy off the coast of Somalia is caused in part by illegal fishing. According to the DIW and the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, the dumping of toxic waste in Somali waters by foreign vessels has also severely constrained the ability of local fishermen to earn a living and forced many to turn to piracy instead. 70 percent of the local coastal communities “strongly support the piracy as a form of national defense of the country’s territorial waters”, and the pirates believe they are protecting their fishing grounds and exacting justice and compensation for the marine resources stolen.
Some reports have suggested that, in the absence of an effective national coast guard following the outbreak of the civil war and the subsequent disintegration of the Armed Forces, local fishermen formed organized groups in order to protect their waters. This motivation is reflected in the names taken on by some of the pirate networks, such as the National Volunteer Coast Guard. However, as piracy has become substantially more lucrative in recent years, other reports have speculated that financial gain is now the primary motive for the pirates.
Combined Task Force 150, a multinational coalition task force, took on the role of fighting piracy off of the coast of Somalia by establishing a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) within the Gulf of Aden.
The increasing threat posed by piracy has also caused concern in India since most of its shipping trade routes pass through the Gulf of Aden. The Indian Navy responded to these concerns by deploying a warship in the region on 23 October 2008. In September 2008, Russia announced that it too would join international efforts to combat piracy. Some reports have also accused certain government officials in Somalia of complicity with the pirates, with authorities from the Galmudug administration in the north-central Hobyo district reportedly attempting to use pirate gangs as a bulwark against Islamist insurgents from the nation’s southern conflict zones. However, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, both the former and current administrations of the autonomous Puntland region in northeastern Somalia appear to be more actively involved in combating piracy.
The latter measures include on-land raids on pirate hideouts, and the construction of a new naval base in conjunction with Saracen International, a UK-based security company. By the first half of 2010, these increased policing efforts by Somali government authorities on land and international naval vessels at sea reportedly contributed to a drop in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden from 86 a year prior to 33, forcing pirates to shift attention to other areas such as the Somali Basin and the wider Indian Ocean. By the end of 2011, pirates managed to seize only four ships off of the coast of Somalia; 18 fewer than the 26 they had captured in each of the two previous years. They also attempted unsuccessful attacks on 52 other vessels, 16 fewer than the year prior. As of 11 March 2013, the pirates were holding 2 large ships with an estimated 60 hostages.
According to another source, there were 151 attacks on ships in 2011, compared to 127 in 2010 – but only 25 successful hijacks compared to 47 in 2010. 10 vessels and 159 hostages were being held at February 2012. In 2011, pirates earned $146m, an average of $4.87m per ship. An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 pirates operated; by February 2012 1,000 had been captured and were going through legal processes in 21 countries. According to the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR), intensified naval operations had by February 2012 led to a further drop in successful pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean, with the pirates’ movements in the region at large also significantly constrained. 25 military vessels from the EU and NATO countries, the United States, China, Russia, India and Japan patrolled approximately 8.3m km2 (3.2m sq miles) of ocean, an area about the size of Western Europe.
On 16 July 2012, the European Union launched a new operation, EUCAP Nestor. An analysis by the Brussels-based Global Governance Institute urged the EU to commit onshore to prevent piracy. By September 2012, the heyday of piracy in the Indian Ocean was reportedly over. Backers were now reportedly reluctant to finance pirate expeditions due to the low rate of success, and pirates were no longer able to reimburse their creditors. According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirate attacks had by October 2012 dropped to a six-year low, with only 1 ship attacked in the third quarter compared to 36 during the same period in 2011.
Between 2009 and 2010, the government of the autonomous Puntland region in northeastern Somalia enacted a number of reforms and pre-emptive measures as a part of its officially declared anti-piracy campaign. The latter included the arrest, trial and conviction of pirate gangs, as well as raids on suspected pirate hideouts and confiscation of weapons and equipment; ensuring the adequate coverage of the regional authority’s anti-piracy efforts by both local and international media; sponsoring a social campaign led by Islamic scholars and community activists aimed at discrediting piracy and highlighting its negative effects; and partnering with the NATO alliance to combat pirates at sea. In May 2010, construction also began on a new naval base in the town of Bandar Siyada, located 25 km west of Bosaso, the commercial capital of Puntland. The facility is funded by Puntland’s regional government in conjunction with Saracen International, a UK-based security company, and is intended to assist in more effectively combating piracy. The base will include a center for training recruits, and a command post for the naval force. These numerous security measures appear to have borne fruit, as many pirates were apprehended in 2010, including a prominent leader. Puntland’s security forces also reportedly managed to force out the pirate gangs from their traditional safe havens such as Eyl and Gar’ad, with the pirates now primarily operating from Hobyo, El Danaan and Harardhere in the neighboring Galmudug region.
Following a Transitional Federal Government-Puntland cooperative agreement in August 2011 calling for the creation of a Somali Marine Force, of which the already established Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) would form a part, the Puntland administration resumed training of PMPF naval officials. The Puntland Maritime Police Force is a locally recruited, professional maritime security force that is primarily aimed at fighting piracy off of the coast of Somalia, safeguarding the nation’s marine resources, and providing logistics support to humanitarian efforts. Supported by the United Arab Emirates, PMPF officials are also trained by the Japanese Coast Guard.
Government officials from the Galmudug administration in the north-central Hobyo district have also reportedly attempted to use pirate gangs as a bulwark against Islamist insurgents from southern Somalia’s conflict zones; other pirates are alleged to have reached agreements of their own with the Islamist groups, although a senior commander from the Hizbul Islam militia vowed to eradicate piracy by imposing sharia law when his group briefly took control of Harardhere in May 2010 and drove out the local pirates.
By the first half of 2010, these increased policing efforts by Somali government authorities on land along with international naval vessels at sea reportedly contributed to a drop in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden from 86 a year prior to 33, forcing pirates to shift attention to other areas such as the Somali Basin and the wider Indian Ocean.
The government of Somaliland, a self-declared republic that is internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia, has adopted stringent anti-piracy measures, arresting and imprisoning pirates forced to make port in Berbera. According to officials in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, the Somaliland Coast Guard acts as an effective deterrent to piracy in waters under its jurisdiction.
Arab League summit
Following the seizure by Somali pirates of an Egyptian ship and a Saudi oil supertanker worth $100 million of oil, the Arab League, after a meeting in Cairo, has called for an urgent summit for countries overlooking the Red Sea, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Somalia, Jordan, Djibouti and Yemen. The summit would offer several solutions for the piracy problem, in addition to suggesting different routes and looking for a more secure passageway for ships.
Another possible means of intervention by the Red Sea Arab nations’ navy might be to assist the current NATO anti-piracy effort as well as other navies.
In June 2008, following a letter from the Somalian Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to the President of the UN Security Council requesting assistance for the TFG’s efforts to tackle acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a declaration authorizing nations that have the consent of the Transitional Federal Government to enter Somali territorial waters to deal with pirates. The measure, which was sponsored by France, the United States and Panama, lasted six months.
France initially wanted the resolution to include other regions with pirate problems, such as West Africa, but were opposed by Vietnam, Libya and most importantly by veto-holding China, who wanted the sovereignty infringement limited to Somalia.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on 20 November 2008, that was proposed by Britain to introduce tougher sanctions against Somalia over the country’s failure to prevent a surge in sea piracy. The US circulated the draft resolution that called upon countries having naval capacities to deploy vessels and aircraft to actively fight against piracy in the region. The resolution also welcomed the initiatives of the European Union, NATO and other countries to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia. US Alternate Representative for Security Council Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo said that the draft resolution “calls on the secretary-general to look at a long-term solution to escorting the safe passage of World Food Programme ships.” Even Somalia’s Islamist militants stormed the Somali port of Harardheere in the hunt for pirates behind the seizure of a Saudi supertanker, the MV Sirius Star.
A clan elder affiliated with the Islamists said “The Islamists arrived searching for the pirates and the whereabouts of the Saudi ship. I saw four cars full of Islamists driving in the town from corner to corner. The Islamists say they will attack the pirates for hijacking a Muslim ship.”
On 17 December 2008, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a tougher resolution, allowing for the first time international land and sea occupations in the pursuit of pirates. Four ships, a Chinese fishing boat, a Turkish cargo ship, a Malaysian tug, and a private yacht were seized by pirates that same day. Resolution 1851 takes current anti-piracy measures a step further.
A Russian drafted resolution, Security Council Resolution 1918, adopted on 27 April 2010, called on all states to criminalise piracy and suggested the possibility of establishing a regional or international tribunal to prosecute suspected pirates.
Pursuant to resolution 1976 and resolution 2015, both adopted in 2011, the United Nations Security Council has called for more structured international support for Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government as well as Puntland and other regional authorities in Somalia in creating counter-piracy special courts, laws, prisons and policing capabilities. Resolution 1976 also encourages regional and federal actors to engage in more effective marine resource defence against illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping in areas under their jurisdiction.
On 19 November 2012 UN Security Council held an open meeting discuss piracy. The debate, which was the first held by the Security Council about this subject, was called by Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri and heard more than 40 speakers from different countries and international organizations.[1