Piracy in Somalia

Piracy in Somalia
Map of areas under threat by Somali pirates.
Pirates holding the crew of the Chinese fishing vessel Tian Yu No. 8, guarding the crew on the bow.

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.[1] 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.[2] [3] Piracy has impeded the delivery of shipments and increased shipping expenses, costing an estimated £10 billion a year in global trade.[4] 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.[5]

A United Nations report and several news sources have suggested that piracy off the coast of Somalia is caused in part by illegal fishing.[6][7] 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.[5][8] Other articles allege that 70 percent of the local coastal communities "strongly support the piracy as a form of national defense of the country's territorial waters", and that the pirates believe they are protecting their fishing grounds and exacting justice and compensation for the marine resources stolen.[9][10][11] Some pirates have suggested that, in the absence of an effective national coast guard following the outbreak of the Somali Civil War and the subsequent disintegration of the Armed Forces, they became pirates in order to protect their waters. This belief is also reflected in the names taken on by some of the pirate networks, such as the National Volunteer Coast Guard (NVCG).[7] However, as piracy has become substantially more lucrative in recent years, some reports are suggesting that financial gain is now the primary motive for Somali pirates.[12][13]

Combined Task Force 150, a multinational coalition task force, took on the role of fighting Somali piracy by establishing a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) within the Gulf of Aden.[14] 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.[15] Some reports have also accused certain government officials in Somalia of complicity with the pirates,[16] 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.[17] 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.[16] The latter measures include on-land raids on pirate hideouts,[18] and the construction of a new naval base in conjunction with Saracen International, a UK-based security company.[19] 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.[18][20][21] As of 21 November 2011, Somali pirates were holding at least 10 large ships with an estimated 243 hostages.[22]



During the Siad Barre regime, Somalia received aid from Denmark, Great Britain, Iraq, Japan, Sweden, USSR and West Germany to develop its fishing industry. Prior to this Somali fishing was very limited and close to shore. Fishermen were looked down on by herders and urban workers. Cooperatives had fixed prices for their catch, which was often exported due to the low demand for seafood in Somalia. Aid money improved the ships and supported the construction of maintenance facilities.[23] After the fall of the Barre regime, the income from fishing decreased due to the Somali Civil War.

With the collapse of the central government, the Somali Navy ceased to exist as a fighting force. With Somali waters undefended, foreign fishing trawlers began illegally fishing in Somali waters, and ships from big companies began dumping waste off Somalia, killing fish. This led to the erosion of the fish stock. Local fishermen started to band together to protect their resources.[24] Although most of these early defensive forays went unreported, the first recorded incident of modern piracy off the coast of Somalia occurred on May 10, 1991 near Mombasa, when Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) militiamen hijacked a vessel belonging to the Somali Police Force that was transporting refugees to safer shores.[25]

Armed pirates in the Indian Ocean near Somalia. After the picture was taken, the vessel's crew members opened fire on U.S. Navy ships and the ship's crew members returned fire. One suspected pirate was killed and 12 were taken into custody. See engaged pirate vessels

Some pirates are former fishermen, whose livelihoods were hurt by foreign ships illegally fishing in Somali waters.[26] Most of the pirates, observers say, are not former fishermen.[27] After seeing the profitability of piracy, since ransoms are usually paid, warlords began to facilitate pirate activities, splitting the profits with the pirates.[28]In most of the hijackings, the pirates have not harmed their prisoners.[29]

Pirates have even attacked World Food Program ships carrying humanitarian aid to Somalia. As a result, international warships began escorting aid shipments into port.[30]

The Transitional Federal Government has made some efforts to combat piracy, occasionally allowing foreign naval vessels into Somali territorial waters.[31] However, more often than not, foreign naval vessels chasing pirates were forced to break off when the pirates entered Somali territorial waters.[32][33] To counter this, in 2008 (and renewed each year since then) the UN passed a resolution allowing international warships to pursue pirates into Somali territorial waters.[34] On the advice of lawyers, the Royal Navy and other international naval forces have often released suspected pirates that they have captured because, although the men are frequently armed, they have not been caught engaging in acts of piracy and have thus not technically committed a crime.[35] The government of Puntland has made more progress in combating piracy, evident in recent interventions.[36]

Summary of recent events

Somali pirates have attacked hundreds of vessels in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean region, though most attacks do not result in a successful hijacking. In 2008, there were 111 attacks which included 42 successful hijackings.[37] However, this is only a fraction of the up to 30,000 merchant vessels which pass through that area.[38] The rate of attacks in January and February 2009 was about 10 times higher than during the same period in 2008 and "there have been almost daily attacks in March",[37] with 79 attacks,[39] 21 successful, by mid April. Most of these attacks occur in the Gulf of Aden but the Somali pirates have been increasing their range and have started attacking ships as far south as off the coast of Kenya in the Indian Ocean.[40][41] Below are some notable pirate events which have garnered significant media coverage since 2007.

On 28 May 2007, a Chinese sailor was killed by the pirates because the ship's owners failed to meet their ransom demand.[42]

The sinking of Ekawat Nava 5 on November 18, 2008 by the Indian Navy warship INS Tabar.

On 5 October 2008, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1838[43] calling on nations with vessels in the area to apply military force to repress the acts of piracy.[44] At the 101st council of the International Maritime Organization, India called for a United Nations peacekeeping force under unified command to tackle piracy off Somalia.[45] (There has been a general and complete arms embargo against Somalia since 1992.)

On 21 November 2008, BBC News reported that the Indian Navy had received United Nations approval to enter Somali waters to combat piracy.[46]

In November 2008, Somali pirates began hijacking ships well outside the Gulf of Aden, perhaps targeting ships headed for the port of Mombasa, Kenya.[47] The frequency and sophistication of the attacks also increased around this time, as did the size of vessels being targeted. Large cargo ships, oil and chemical tankers on international voyages became the new targets of choice for the Somali hijackers. This is in stark contrast to the pirate attacks which were once frequent in the Strait of Malacca, another strategically important waterway for international trade, which were according to maritime security expert Catherine Zara Raymond, generally directed against "smaller, more vulnerable vessels carrying trade across the Straits or employed in the coastal trade on either side of the Straits."[48]

On 19 November 2008, the Indian Navy warship INS Tabar sank a suspected pirate mothership.[49] Later, it was claimed to be a Thai trawler being hijacked by pirates.[50] The Indian Navy later defended its actions by stating that they were fired upon first.[51]

On 8 April 2009, four Somali pirates seized the Maersk Alabama 240 nautical miles (440 km; 280 mi) southeast of the Somalia port city of Eyl.[52] The ship was carrying 17,000 metric tons of cargo, of which 5,000 metric tons were relief supplies bound for Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya.[53][54] On 12 April 2009, United States Navy SEAL snipers killed the three pirates that were holding Captain Richard Phillips hostage aboard a lifeboat from the Maersk Alabama after determining that Captain Phillips' life was in immediate danger.[55][56][57] A fourth pirate, Abdul Wali Muse, surrendered and was taken into custody.[58][59] On May 18, a federal grand jury in New York returned a ten-count indictment against him.[60]

On 20 April 2009, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on the capture and release of 7 Somali pirates by Dutch Naval forces who were on a NATO mission.[61] After an attack on the Handytankers Magic, a petroleum tanker, the Dutch frigate De Zeven Provinciën tracked the pirates back to a pirate "mother ship" and captured them.[61][62] They confiscated the pirates' weapons and freed 20 Yemeni fishermen whom the pirates had kidnapped and who had been forced to sail the pirate "mother ship".[61][62] Since the Dutch Naval Forces were part of a NATO exercise, but not on an EU mission, they lacked legal jurisdiction to keep the pirates so they released them.[61] Clinton stated that this action "sends the wrong signal" and that additional coordination was needed among nations.[61]

On 23 April 2009, international donors pledged over $250 million for Somalia, including $134 million to increase the African Union peacekeeping mission from 4,350 troops to 8,000 troops and $34 million for Somali security forces.[63][64]Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon told delegates at a donors' conference sponsored by the U.N. that "Piracy is a symptom of anarchy and insecurity on the ground", and that "More security on the ground will make less piracy on the seas."[63][64] Somali President Sharif Ahmed pledged at the conference that he would fight piracy and to loud applause said that "It is our duty to pursue these criminals not only on the high seas, but also on terra firma".[63][64] The Somali government has not gone after pirates because pirate leaders currently have more power than the government.[63][64] It has been estimated by piracy experts that in 2008 the pirates gained about $80 million through ransom payments.[63][64]

On 2 May 2009, Somali pirates captured the MV Ariana with its 24 Ukrainian crew.[65] The ship was released on 10 December 2009 after a ransom of almost $3,000,000 was paid.[66]

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.

On 8 November 2009, Somali pirates threatened that a kidnapped British couple, the Chandlers, would be "punished" if a German warship did not release seven pirates.[67] Omer, one of the pirates holding the British couple, claimed the seven men were fishermen, but a European Union Naval Force spokesman stated they were captured as they fired AK-47 assault rifles at a French fishing vessel.[67] The Chandlers were released on 14 November 2010 after 388 days of captivity.[68] At least two ransom payments, reportedly over GBP 500 000, had been made.[69]

In April 2010, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) alluded to possible covert and overt action against the pirates. CIA officials had been publicly warning of this potential threat for months. In a Harpers Magazine article, a CIA official said, "We need to deal with this problem from the beach side, in concert with the ocean side, but we don't have an embassy in Somalia and limited, ineffective intelligence operations. We need to work in Somalia and in Lebanon, where a lot of the ransom money has changed hands. But our operations in Lebanon are a joke, and we have no presence at all in Somalia."[70]

On 11 May 2010 Somali pirates seized a Bulgarian-flagged ship in the Gulf of Aden. The Panega, with 15 Bulgarian crew members aboard, was en route from the Red Sea to India or Pakistan. This was the first such hijacking of a Bulgarian-flagged ship. On 12 May 2010, Athens announced that Somali pirates have seized a Greek vessel in the Gulf of Aden with at least 24 people on board, including two Greek citizens and some Filipinos. The vessel, sailing under the Liberian flag, was transporting iron from Ukraine to China.

On 14 January 2011, while speaking to reporters, Commodore Michiel Hijmans of the Royal Netherlands Navy stated that the use of hijacked vessels in more recent hijackings had led to increased range of pirating activities, as well as difficulty to actively thwart future events due to the use of kidnapped sailors as human shields.[71]

On 15 January 2011 thirteen Somali pirates seized the Samho Jewelry, a Maltese-flagged chemical carrier operated by Samho Shipping, 650 km southeast of Muscat. The Republic of Korea Navy destroyer Choi Young shadowed the Samho Jewlry for several days. In the early morning of 21 January 2011, 25 ROK Navy SEALs on small boats launched from the Choi Young boarded the Samho Jewelry while the Choi Youngs Westland Super Lynx provided covering fire. Eight pirates were killed and five captured in the operation; the crew of 21 was freed with the Captain suffering a gunshot wound to the stomach.[72]

On 28 January 2011, an Indian Coast Guard aircraft while responding to a distress call from the CMA CGM Verdi, located two skiffs attempting a piracy attack near Lakshadweep. Seeing the aircraft, the skiffs immediately aborted their piracy attempt and dashed towards the mother vessel, MV Prantalay 14 – a hijacked Thai trawler, which hurriedly hoisted the two skiffs on board and moved westward. The Indian Navy deployed the INS Cankarso which located and engaged the mothership 100 nautical miles north of the Minicoy island. 10 pirates were killed while 15 were apprehended and 20 Thai and Myanmarese fishermen being held aboard the ship as hostages were rescued.[73]

Within a week of its previous success, the Indian Navy captured another hijacked Thai trawler, MV Prantalay 11 and captured 28 pirates aboard in an operation undertaken by the INS Tir purusuant to receiving information that a Greek merchant ship had been attacked by pirates on board high-speed boats, although it had managed to avoid capture. When INS Tir ordered the pirate ship to stop and be boarded for inspection, it was fired upon. The INS Tir returned fire in which 3 pirates were injured and caused the pirates to raise a white flag indicating their surrender. The INS Tir subsequently joined by CGS Samar of the Indian Coast Guard. Officials from the Indian Navy reported that a total of 52 men were apprehended, but that 24 are suspected to be Thai fishermen who were hostages of the 28 African pirates.[74]

In late February 2011, piracy targeting smaller yachts and collecting ransom made headlines when four Americans were killed aboard their vessel, the Quest, by their captors, while a military ship shadowed them.[75] A federal court in Norfolk, Virginia, sentenced three members of the gang that seized the yacht to life imprisonment.[76] On 24 February 2011 a Danish family on a yacht were captured by pirates.[77]

In March 2011, the Indian Navy intercepted a pirate mother vessel 600 nautical miles west of the Indian coast in the Arabian Sea on Monday and rescued 13 hostages. Sixty-one pirates have also been caught in the operation carried out by Navy's INS Kalpeni.[78]

In late March 2011, Indian Navy seized 16 Somali pirates after a three-hour-long battle in the Arabian Sea, The navy also rescued 16 crew members of a hijacked Iranian ship west of the Lakshadweep Islands. The crew included 12 Iranians and four Pakistanis.[79]

In early May 2010, Russian special forces retook a Russian oil tanker that had been hijacked by 11 pirates. One died in the assault, and a week later Russian military officials reported that the remainder were freed due to weaknesses in international law but died before reaching the Somali coast. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had announced the day the ship was retaken that "We'll have to do what our forefathers did when they met the pirates" until a suitable way of prosecuting them was available.[80]



A collage of pirates armed with AKM assault rifles, RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and semi-automatic pistols.

Many pirates are 20–35 years old and come from the region of Puntland, in northeastern Somalia. The East African Seafarers' Association estimates that there are at least five pirate gangs and a total of 1,000 armed men.[81] According to a BBC report, the pirates can be divided into three main categories:

  • Local Somali fishermen, considered the brains of the pirates' operations due to their skill and knowledge of the sea. Many think that foreign boats have no right to cruise next to the shore and destroy their boats.
  • Ex-militiamen, who previously fought for the local clan warlords, or ex-military from the former Barre government used as the muscle.
  • Technical experts, who operate equipment such as GPS devices.[82]

Many of the Puntland group of pirates received sophisticated training on weapons,engines and navigation from three separate mainly Western "security" companies,such as Som Can, that were contracted by the Puntland government . They trained locals to protect inshore fishermen initially, and were also authorised by the government to sell fishing licences to foreign fishermen on a share basis. All of the companies either collapsed or were forced out leaving a large pool of highly trained seamen who form the nucleus of the pirates. According to Globalsecurity.org, there are four main groups operating off the Somali coast. The National Volunteer Coast Guard, commanded by Garaad Mohamed, is said to specialize in intercepting small boats and fishing vessels around Kismayo on the southern coast. The Marka group, under the command of Yusuf Mohammed Siad Inda'ade, is made up of several scattered and less organized groups operating around the town of Marka. The third significant pirate group is composed of traditional Somali fishermen operating around Puntland and referred to as the Puntland Group. The last set are the Somali Marines, reputed to be the most powerful and sophisticated of the pirate groups with a military structure, a fleet admiral, admiral, vice-admiral and a head of financial operations.[83]

The conduct of a typical pirate attack has been analyzed[84] and shows that while attacks can be expected at any time, most occur during the day, often in the early hours. They may involve two or more skiffs that can reach speeds of up to 25 knots. With the help of motherships that include captured fishing and merchant vessels the operating range of the skiffs has been increased far into the Indian Ocean. An attacked vessel is approached from quarter or stern; RPGs and small arms are used to intimidate the operator to slow down and allow boarding. Light ladders are brought along to climb aboard. Pirates then will try and get control of the bridge to take operational control of the vessel.[84]

The closest Somali term for 'pirate' is burcad badeed, which means "ocean robber". But the pirates themselves prefer to be called badaadinta badah, or "saviours of the sea", or in the English "coastguard",[85] as they claimed that their action was for "protection of his sea, the native [Somali] waters".

Effects and perceptions

There have been both positive and negative effects of the pirates' economic success. Local residents have complained that the presence of so many armed men makes them feel insecure, and that their free spending ways cause wild fluctuations in the local exchange rate. Others fault them for excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages and khat.[82]

On the other hand, many other residents appreciate the rejuvenating effect that the pirates' on-shore spending and re-stocking has had on their impoverished towns, a presence which has often provided jobs and opportunity when there were none. Entire hamlets have in the process been transformed into veritable boomtowns, with local shop owners and other residents using their gains to purchase items such as generators -- "allowing full days of electricity, once an unimaginable luxury."[86]

Local fishermen in the Malindi area of Kenya to the south have reported their largest catches in forty years, catching hundreds of kilos of fish and earning fifty times the average daily wage as a result. They attribute the recent abundance of marine stock to the pirates scaring away the foreign fishing trawlers, which it is claimed have for decades deprived local dhows of a livelihood. Marine biologists agree, saying that the indicators are that the local fishery is recovering because of the lack of commercial scale fishing.[87]

The Somali piracy appears to have a positive impact on the problem of overfishing in Somali waters by foreign vessels, as a comparison has been made with the situation in Tanzania further to the south, which suffers from the same problem, and also lacks the means to enforce the protection and regulation of its territorial waters. There, the catches have dropped to dramatic low levels, whereas in Somalia they have risen back to more acceptable levels since the beginning of the piracy.[88]

Weaponry and funding

The pirates get most of their weapons from Yemen, but a significant amount come from Mogadishu, Somalia's capital. Weapons dealers in the capital receive a deposit from a hawala dealer on behalf of the pirates and the weapons are then driven to Puntland where the pirates pay the balance.[82] Various photographs of pirates in situ indicate that their weapons are predominantly AKMs, RPG-7s, AK47s, and semi-automatic pistols such as the TT-30.[89][90] Additionally, given the particular origin of their weaponry, they are likely to have hand grenades such as the RGD-5 or F1. Al-Qaeda reportedly funded pirates with cash to purchase weapons. Osama bin-Laden supported these pirates in a video footage aired on al-Jazeera.[citation needed]

The funding of piracy operations is now structured in a stock exchange, with investors buying and selling shares in upcoming attacks in a bourse in Harardhere.[91] Pirates say ransom money is paid in large denomination US dollar bills. It is delivered to them in burlap sacks which are either dropped from helicopters or cased in waterproof suitcases loaded onto tiny skiffs. Ransom money has also been delivered to pirates via parachute, as happened in January 2009 when an orange container with $3 million cash inside was dropped onto the deck of the supertanker MV Sirius Star to secure the release of ship and crew.[92] To authenticate the banknotes, pirates use currency-counting machines, the same technology used at foreign exchange bureaus worldwide. According to one pirate, these machines are, in turn, purchased from business connections in Dubai, Djibouti, and other areas.[86] Hostages seized by the pirates usually have to wait 45 days or more for the ships' owners to pay the ransom and secure their release.[93]

Somali pirates allegedly get help from the Somali diaspora. Somali expatriates, including reputedly some among the 200,000 Somalis living in Canada, offer funds, equipment and information.[94]

Economic issues


The purpose of piracy is to get ransom money for release of the crew, ship, and cargo. Pirates' income from ransom has been estimated to be about 39 million euro (about $58 million) in 2009[95] and $238 million in 2010.[96] However, indirect costs of piracy are much higher and estimated to be between $7 to 12 billion as they also include insurance, naval support, legal proceedings, re-routing of slower ships, and individual protective steps taken by ship-owners.[96] Further, piracy in Somalia leads to a decrease of revenue for Egypt as fewer ships use the Suez canal (estimated loss of about $642 million), impedes trade with a number of countries such as Kenya and Yemen, and is detrimental to tourism and fishing in the Seychelles.[96][97]

A 2011 report published by Geopolicity Inc, investigated the causes and consequences of international piracy, with a particular focus on piracy emanating from Somalia. The report asserts that piracy is an emerging market in its own right, valued at between US$4.9-8.3 billion in 2010 alone, and it establishes, for the first time, an economic model for assessing the costs and benefits of international piracy. This model provides a comprehensive, independent framework of trend analysis, whilst also highlighting where the greatest rates of return on international counter pirate investment and policy are to be found across what Geopolicity term the ‘Pirate Value Chain.’ The report states that the number of pirates could double by 2016, increasing by 400 each year. This is being fuelled by attractive financial incentives with Somali pirates earning up to US$79,000/year; equating to almost 150 times their country’s national average wage.[98]

Human cost

Somali piracy operations exact significant human cost. Thus in 2010, 4,185 seafarers had been attacked and 1,090 were held hostage, a third of these were abused.[99] According to Reuters, 62 seafarers died out of over 3,500 captives during a four year period having been murdered, or from suicide or malnutrition.[100] Many seafarers are traumatized after release.[100]

On the Somali side, youth is directed into a perilous life of criminal activity.[99]


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. DIW claims that, in order to keep premiums high, insurance firms have not demanded that ship owners take security precautions that would make hijackings more difficult. For their part, shipping companies often do not comply with naval guidelines on how best to prevent pirate attacks in order to cut down on costs. Ship crews have also been reluctant to repel the pirates on account of their low wages and inequitable work contracts. In addition, security contractors and the German arms industry, have profited from the phenomenon.[5]

Sovereignty and environmental protection

The former UN envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, has stated that "because there is no (effective) government, there is ... much irregular fishing from European and Asian countries,"[101] and that the UN has what he described as "reliable information" that European and Asian companies are dumping toxic and nuclear waste off the Somali coastline.[102] However, he stresses that "no government has endorsed this act, and that private companies and individuals acting alone are responsible."[102] In addition, Ould-Abdallah told the press that he approached several international NGOs, such as Global Witness, to trace the illicit fishing and waste-dumping. He added that he believes the toxic waste dumping is "a disaster off the Somali coast, a disaster (for) the Somali environment, the Somali population", and that what he terms "this illegal fishing, illegal dumping of waste" helps fuel the civil war in Somalia since the illegal foreign fishermen pay off corrupt local officials or warlords for protection or to secure counterfeit licenses.[101] Ould-Abdallah noted that piracy will not prevent waste dumping:

I am convinced there is dumping of solid waste, chemicals and probably nuclear (waste).... There is no government (control) and there are few people with high moral ground[...] The intentions of these pirates are not concerned with protecting their environment. What is ultimately needed is a functioning, effective government that will get its act together and take control of its affairs.
—Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy for Somalia[102]

Somali pirates which captured MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and military hardware, accused European firms of dumping toxic waste off the Somali coast and declared that the $8m ransom for the return of the ship will go towards cleaning up the waste. The ransom demand is a means of "reacting to the toxic waste that has been continually dumped on the shores of our country for nearly 20 years", Januna Ali Jama, a spokesman for the pirates said. "The Somali coastline has been destroyed, and we believe this money is nothing compared to the devastation that we have seen on the seas."[102]

These issues have generally not been reported in international media when reporting on piracy.[103][104] According to Muammar al-Gaddafi, "It is a response to greedy Western nations, who invade and exploit Somalia’s water resources illegally. It is not a piracy, it is self defence."[105]

Pirate leader Sugule Ali said their motive was "to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters ... We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas." Also, the independent Somali news-site WardherNews found that 70 percent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence of the country's territorial waters".[106]

Waste dumping

Following the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, there have emerged allegations that after the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in late 1991, Somalia's long, remote shoreline was used as a dump site for the disposal of toxic waste. The huge waves which battered northern Somalia after the tsunami are believed to have stirred up tonnes of nuclear and toxic waste that was illegally dumped in Somali waters by several European firms — front companies created by the Italian mafia.[107] The European Green Party followed up these revelations by presenting before the press and the European Parliament in Strasbourg copies of contracts signed by two European companies—the Italian Swiss firm, Achair Partners, and an Italian waste broker, Progresso—and representatives of the warlords then in power, to accept 10 million tonnes of toxic waste in exchange for $80 million (then about £60 million). According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) assessment mission, there are far higher than normal cases of respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and bleeding, abdominal hemorrhages and unusual skin infections among many inhabitants of the areas around the northeastern towns of Hobbio and Benadir on the Indian Ocean coast—diseases consistent with radiation sickness. UNEP continues that the current situation along the Somali coastline poses a very serious environmental hazard not only in Somalia but also in the eastern Africa sub-region.[107][108]

In 1992, reports ran in the European press of "unnamed European firms" contracting with local warlords to dump toxic waste both in Somalia and off Somalia's shores. The United Nations Environment Program was called in to investigate, and the Italian parliament issued a report later in the decade. Several European "firms" — really front companies created by the Italian mafia — contracted with local Somali warlords to ship hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic industrial waste from Europe to Somalia.
—Troy S. Thomas, Warlords rising: confronting violent non-state actors[109]

Under Article 9(1)(d) of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, it is illegal for "any transboundary movement of hazardous wastes or other wastes: that results in deliberate disposal (e.g. dumping) of hazardous wastes or other wastes in contravention of this Convention and of general principles of international law".[110]

According to Nick Nuttall of the United Nations Environmental Programme, "Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting in the early 1990s, and continuing through the civil war there", and "European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne."[102][111]

Illegal fishing

At the same time, foreign travelers began illegally fishing Somalia's seas, with an estimated $300 million of tuna, shrimp, and lobster being taken each year, depleting stocks previously available to local fishermen. Through interception with speedboats, Somali fishermen tried to either dissuade the dumpers and trawlers or levy a "tax" on them as compensation, as Segule Ali's previously mentioned quote notes. Peter Lehr, a Somalia piracy expert at the University of St. Andrews says "It's almost like a resource swap, Somalis collect up to $100 million a year from pirate ransoms off their coasts and the Europeans and Asians poach around $300 million a year in fish from Somali waters."[26][112] The UK's Department for International Development (DFID) issued a report in 2005 stating that, between 2003 and 2004, Somalia lost about $100 million in revenue due to illegal tuna and shrimp fishing in the country's exclusive economic zone by foreign trawlers.[6]

According to Roger Middleton of Chatham House, "The problem of overfishing and illegal fishing in Somali waters is a very serious one, and does affect the livelihoods of people inside Somalia [...] the dumping of toxic waste on Somalia's shores is a very serious issue, which will continue to affect people in Somalia long after the war has ended, and piracy is resolved."[113] To lure fish to their traps, foreign trawlers reportedly also use fishing equipment under prohibition such as nets with very small mesh sizes and sophisticated underwater lighting systems.[101]

Under Article 56(1)(b)(iii) of the Law of the Sea Convention:

"In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to the protection and preservation of the marine environment".

Article 57 of the Convention in turn outlines the limit of that jurisdiction:

"The exclusive economic zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured".[114]

Anti-piracy measures


The third volume of the handbook: Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy off the Coast of Somalia and in the Arabian Sea Area (known as BMP3) is the current authoritative guide for merchant ships on self-defense against pirates. The guide is issued and updated by a consortium of interested international shipping and trading organizations including the EU, NATO and the International Maritime Bureau.[84] It is distributed primarily by the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) – the planning and coordination authority for EU naval forces (EUNAVFOR). BMP3 encourages vessels to register their voyages through the region with MSCHOA as this registration is a key component of the operation of the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) (the navy patrolled route through the Gulf of Aden). BMP3 also contains a chapter entitled "Self-Protective Measures" which lays out a list of steps a merchant vessel can take on its own to make itself less of a target to pirates and make it better able to repel an attack if one occurs. This list includes doing thing like ringing the deck of the ship with razor wire, rigging fire-hoses to spray sea-water over the side of the ship (to hinder boardings), having a distinctive pirate alarm, hardening the bridge against gunfire and creating a "citadel" where the crew can retreat in the event pirates get on board. Other unofficial self-defense measures that can be found on merchant vessels include the setting up of mannequins posing as armed guards or firing flares at the pirates.[115]

Though it varies by country, generally peacetime law in the 20th and 21st centuries has not allowed merchant vessels to carry weapons. As a response to the rise in modern piracy, however, the U.S. Government changed its rules so that it is now possible for US flagged vessels to embark a team of armed private security guards. Other countries and organisations have similarly followed suit.[116] This has given birth to a new breed of private security companies who provide training and protection for crew members and cargo and have proved effective in countering pirate attacks.[117][118] The USCG leaves it to ship owners' discretion to determine if those guards will be armed.[119][120]

With safety trials complete in the late 2000s, dazer lasers have been developed for defensive purposes on super-yachts.[121] They can be effective up to 2.5 miles with the effects going from mild disorientation to flash blindness at closer range.

Military presence

Ships of the multinational fleet Combined Task Force 150, March 2004.
From the left: DM F-213 Augsburg, JMSDF DD-106 Samidare, RNZN F-111 Te Mana, JMSDF DDG-175 Myōkō, MMI F-573 Scirocco, Spanish Navy Victoria (F82), US Navy USS Leyte Gulf, JMSDF AOE-422 Towada, USS Cushing

The military response to pirate attacks has brought about a rare show of unity by countries that are either openly hostile to each other, or at least wary of cooperation, military or otherwise. Currently there are three international naval task forces in the region, with numerous national vessels and task forces entering and leaving the region, engaging in counter-piracy operations for various lengths of time. The three international task forces which comprise the bulk of counter-piracy operations are Combined Task Force 150 (whose overarching mission is Operation Enduring Freedom), Combined Task Force 151 (which was set up in 2009 specifically to run counter-piracy operations)[122] and the EU naval task force operating under Operation Atalanta. All counter-piracy operations are coordinated through a monthly planning conference called Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE).[123] Originally having representatives only from NATO, the EU, and the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) HQ in Bahrain, it now regularly attracts representatives from over 20 countries.

Puntland Coast Guard officials meeting with NATO Maritime Group 1 (NATO SNMG1) representatives to discuss human intelligence gathering, capacity building and counter piracy cooperation between NATO and Puntland authorities.

As part of the international effort, Europe plays a significant role in combating piracy of the Horn of Africa. The European Union under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) launched EU NAVFOR Somalia – Operation Atalanta (in support of Resolutions 1814 (2008), 1816 (2008), 1838 (2008) and 1846 (2008) of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)). This operation is working to protect humanitarian aid and reduce the disruption to the shipping routes and the de-stabilising of the maritime environment in the region. To date, 26 countries have brought some kind of contribution to the operation. 13 EU Member States have provided an operational contribution to EU NAVFOR, either with ships, with maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, or with Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD) team. This includes France, Spain, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, United Kingdom (also hosting the EU NAVFOR Operational headquarters), Portugal, Luxembourg, Malta and Estonia. 9 other EU Member States have participated in the effort providing military staff to work at the EU NAVFOR Operational Headquarters (Northwood Headquarters – UK) or onboard units. These are Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Ireland and Finland. Finally, 4 non EU Member States, Norway (who has also provided an operational contribution with a warship regularly deploying), Croatia, Ukraine and Montenegro have so far also brought their contribution to EU NAVFOR. At any one time, the European force size fluctuates according to the monsoon seasons, which determine the level of piracy. It typically consists of 5 to 10 Surface Combatants (Naval ships), 1 to 2 Auxiliary ships and 2 to 4 Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft. Including land-based personnel, Operation Atalanta consists of a total of around 2,000 military personnel. EU NAVFOR operates in a zone comprising the south of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the western part of the Indian Ocean including the Seychelles, which represents an area of 2,000,000 square nautical miles.

Additionally, there are, and have been, several naval deployments by non-multinational task forces in the past. Some notable ones include:

On 29 May 2009, Australia pledged its support, re-directing Australian Warship, HMAS Warramunga from duties in the Persian Gulf to assist in the fighting of Piracy.[124]

On 26 December 2008, China dispatched three warships (Haikou (171), Wuhan (169) and the supply ship Weishanhu) to the Gulf of Aden. A team of 16 Chinese Special Forces members from its Marine Corps armed with attack helicopters were on board.[125][126] Subsequent to their initial deployment, China has maintained a three-ship flotilla of two warships and one supply ship in the Gulf of Aden by assigning ships from the South Sea Fleet and/or East Sea Fleet to the area on a three month basis.

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement and the visit, board, search, and seizure team embarked aboard USS Princeton (CG 59) engage in a mock assault operation in the Red Sea.

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; 14 mi) from the coastline, in an effort to check piracy.[127] 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."[128] India also expressed consideration to deploy up to four more warships in the region.[129][130] On 14 March 2011, the Indian navy reportedly had seized 61 pirates and rescued 13 crew from the vessel, which had been used as a mother ship from where pirates launched attacks around the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, a Bangladeshi ship hijacked by pirates last year was freed after a ransom was paid.[131]

Norway announced on 27 February 2009, that it would send the frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen to the coast of Somalia to fight piracy. Royal Norwegian Navy Fridtjof Nansen joined EU NAVFOR's international naval force in August.[132]

Russia also chose to send more warships to combat piracy near Somalia following the announcement from the International Maritime Bureau terming the menace as having gone "out of control."[133]

Due to their proximity to Somalia, the coast guard of Seychelles has become increasingly involved in counter-piracy in the region. On 30 March 2010, a Seychelles Coast Guard Trinkat class patrol vessel rescued 27 hostages and sank two pirate vessels.

Other non-NATO and non-EU countries have, at one time or another, contributed to counter-piracy operations. Pakistan, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Iran have all sent ships to the region, sometimes joining with the existing CTFs, sometimes operating independently.[134]

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) organised the regional African maritime unions’ conference, the first of its kind in Africa. Godfrey Matata Onyango, executive secretary of the Northern Corridor Transit Coordination Authority said that "We cannot ignore to discuss the piracy menace because 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."[citation needed][135][dead link] In 2008 Pakistan offered the services of the Pakistan Navy to the United Nations in order to help combat the piracy in Somalia "provided a clear mandate was given."[136]

Current fleet of vessels in operation

Vessels, aircraft and personnel whose primary mission is to conduct anti-piracy activities come from different countries and are assigned to the following missions: Operation Ocean Shield (NATO and partner states), Atalanta (EU and partner states), Combined Task Force 151, independent missions of Japan, India, Russia, PR China, South Korea, Iran, Malaysia[clarification needed]. Additionally resources dedicated for the War on Terror missions of Combined Task Force 150 and Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa also operate against the pirates.

Country Mission Sailors Ships Cost [Mil of USD per annum] Start End
Australia Royal Australian Navy[137][138] CTF 150 ~250 1 frigate (as part of Operation Slipper duties)  ?  ?  ?
Belgium Belgian Navy[139] Atalanta 170 1 Frigate Louise-Marie  ? Sep 1st 2009
Oct 20th 2010
Dec 16th 2009
Jan 20th 2011
Bulgaria Bulgarian Navy[140][141][142] Operation Ocean Shield 130 Wielingen class frigate Royal Canadian Navy Operation Ocean Shield
[citation needed]
240 HMCS Fredericton  ? November 2009 May 4, 2010
China Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy[143] ~800
including PLA marines
1st Flotilla: Haikou (Type 052C/DDG-171), Wuhan (Type 052B/DDG-169), Weishanhu (Qiandaohu Class/887)
2nd Flotilla: Shenzhen (Type 051B/DDG-167), Huangshan (Type 054A/FFG-570), Weishanhu (Qiandaohu Class/887)
3rd Flotilla: Zhoushan (Type 054A/FFG-529), Xuzhou (Type 054A/FFG-530), Qiandaohu (Qiandaohu Class/886)
4th Flotilla: Ma'anshan (Type 054/FFG-525), Wenzhou (Type 054/FFG-526), Qiandaohu (Qiandaohu Class/886), Chaohu (Type 054A/FFG-568)
5th Flotilla: Guangzhou (Type 052B/DDG-168), Chaohu (Type 054A/FFG-568)), Weishanhu (Qiandaohu Class/887)
6th Flotilla: Kunlun Shan (Type 071/LPD-998), Lanzhou (Type 052C/DDG-170), Weishanhu (Qiandaohu Class/887)
7th Flotilla: Zhoushan (Type 054A/FFG-529), Xuzhou (Type 054A/FFG-530), Qiandaohu (Qiandaohu Class/886)
8th Flotilla: Ma'anshan (Type 054/FFG-525), Wenzhou (Type 054/FFG-526), Qiandaohu (Qiandaohu Class/886)
9th Flotilla: Wuhan (Type 052B/DDG-169), Yulin (Type 054A/FFG-569), Qinghaihu (Nancang Class/885)
10th Flotilla: Haikou (Type 052C/DDG-171), Yuncheng (Type 054A/FFG-571), Qinghaihu (Nancang Class/885)
 ? Jan 6, 2009
Apr 15, 2009
Aug 1, 2009
Nov 27, 2009 (Chaohu Dec 21, 2009)
March 2010
July 2010
Nov 2010
March 2011
July 2011
November 2011
Denmark Royal Danish Navy[144] Operation Ocean Shield
[citation needed]
300 2 (Command and Support Ship HDMS Absalon (L16); Patrol Ship HDMS Thetis (F357)  ? February 2007 April 2009
Finland Finnish Navy Atalanta 120[145] 1 (FNS Pohjanmaa)[145] (11.6 mil EUR)[145] 5 January 2011[146]
1 February 2011[147]
May 2011
France French Navy Operation Ocean Shield or Atalanta
[citation needed]
 ? Germinal, Floréal, La Fayette, avisos, Améthyste  ?  ?  ?
Germany German Navy Atalanta 230[148] 1 (Frigate Emden (F210))[148] 60 (45 Mio. EUR) December 8, 2008[148] December 17, 2010[149]
Greece Greek Navy[150] Operation Ocean Shield 176-196 4  ?  ?  ?
India Indian Navy[151] 540 3 ( Destroyer INS Mysore (D60); Frigate INS Tabar(F44)[127], INS Godavari(F20) 1[152]  ?  ?
Iran Islamic Republic of Iran Navy[153]  ?  ? 1[154]  ?  ?
Italy Italian Navy Operation Ocean Shield
[citation needed]
240 1 (D560 Durand de la Penne)  ?  ?  ?
 Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force[155] 400[156] 1st Escort Division:DD-113 Sazanami, DD-106 Samidare[156]
2nd Escort Division:DD-102 Harusame, DD-154 Amagiri,
3rd Escort Division:DD-110 Takanami, DD-155 Hamagiri
4th Escort Division:DD-111 Onami, DD-157 Sawagiri
5th Escort Division:DD-101 Murasame, DD-153 Yugiri
6th Escort Division:DD-112 Makinami, DD-156 Setogiri
7th Escort Division:DD-104 Kirisame, DD-103 Yudachi
8th Escort Division:DD-105 Inazuma, DD-113 Sazanami
9th Escort Division:DD-106 Samidare, DD-158 Umigiri
10th Escort Division:DD-110 Takanami, DD-111 Onami
 ? March 14, 2009
July 6, 2009
October 13, 2009
January 29, 2010
May 10, 2010
August 23, 2010
December 1, 2010
March 15, 2011
June 20, 2011
October 11, 2011
August 16, 2009
November 29, 2009
March 18, 2010
July 2, 2010
October 15, 2010
January 18, 2011
May 9, 2011
August 11, 2011
Naval Jack of South Korea.svg Republic of Korea Navy[157] CTF 150 300 1 Destroyer (Currently Choi Young DDH-981) 1[158] April 16, 2009  ?
Malaysia Royal Malaysian Navy[159] unknown Support Ship Bunga Mas 5 3[160]  ?  ?
Netherlands Royal Netherlands Navy[161] Atalanta 174-202 HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën 1[162] March 26, 2009 August 2010
Pakistan Pakistan Navy CTF 150 177 PNS Badr  ?  ?  ?
Portugal Portuguese Navy[163] Operation Ocean Shield  ? 1 (Frigate NRP Corte Real – NATO flotilla flagship)  ? June 2009 January 2010
Saudi Arabia Royal Saudi Navy[164] Operation Ocean Shield  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Russia Russian Navy[165] ~350 3 (Destroyer Admiral Panteleyev (BPK 548), Salvage Tugboat, Tanker[166]  ? April 2009  ?
Singapore Republic of Singapore Navy[167] CTF 151 240 LST RSS Persistence (209)
 ? 24 April 2009[168]  ?
Spain Spanish Navy Operation Ocean Shield
[citation needed]
423 2 Frigates (F86 Canarias and F104 Méndez Núñez)  ?  ?  ?
Sweden Swedish Navy[169] Atalanta 152[169] 3[169] (OPV HMS Carlskrona)  ? April 14, 2010[169] November 15, 2010[169]
Thailand Royal Thai Navy[170] CTF 150 371 including 20 marine special warfare task force 2 (OPV HTMS Pattani (OPV 511); Replenishment Ship HTMS Similan (871) and will soon deploy another mission in 2011)[171] 8.757 (270 Mil THB)[171] September 10, 2010[171] January 14, 2011[171]
Turkey Turkish Navy[172] Operation Ocean Shield
[citation needed]
503 2 (Frigates TCG Giresun (F 491), TCG Gokova (F 496))[173]  ?  ?  ?
United Kingdom British Royal Navy Operation Ocean Shield
[citation needed]
950 HMS Cumberland
HMS Montrose
HMS Northumberland[174]
HMS Monmouth[175]
 ?  ?  ?
United States United States Navy Operation Ocean Shield, CTF 150, CTF 151  ? US 5th Fleet  ?  ?

Current states that contribute aircraft or military personnel

Former contributions during previous rotation periods

USS San Antonio, CTF-151 flagship.

Brian Murphy (Associated Press) reported on 8 January 2009 that Rear Admiral Terence E. McKnight, U.S. Navy, is to command a new multi-national naval force to confront piracy off the coast of Somalia. This new anti-piracy force was designated Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151), a multinational task force of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). The USS San Antonio was designated as the flagship of Combined Task Force 151, serving as an afloat forward staging base (AFSB) for the following force elements:

Initially, CTF-151 consisted of the San Antonio, USS Mahan (DDG-72), and HMS Portland (F79), with additional warships expected to join this force.[181]

On 28 January 2009, Japan announced its intention of sending a naval task force to join international efforts to stop piracy off the coast of Somalia. The deployment would be highly unusual, as Japan's non-aggressive constitution means Japanese military forces can only be used for defensive purposes. The issue has been controversial in Japan, although the ruling party maintains this should be seen as fighting crime on the high seas, rather than a "military" operation. The process of the Prime Minister of Japan, Taro Aso, giving his approval is expected to take approximately one month.[155] However, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the Japanese government face legal problems on how to handle attacks by pirates against ships that either have Japanese personnel, cargo or are under foreign control instead of being under Japanese control as current Article 9 regulations would hamper their actions when deployed to Somalia.[182] It was reported on 4 February 2009, that the JMSDF was sending a fact-finding mission led by Gen Nakatani to the region prior to the deployment of the Murasame-class destroyer JDS DD-106 Samidare and the Takanami-class destroyer JDS DD-113 Sazanami to the coast of Somalia with a 13-man team composed of Japanese Ministry of Defense personnel, with members coming from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the JMSDF to visit Yemen, Djibouti, Oman, and Bahrain from February 8 to 20.[183][184] Both JMSDF vessels are units of the 8th Escort Division of the 4th Escort Flotilla based in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture.[185] The JMSDF's special forces unit, the Special Boarding Unit is also scheduled to potentially deploy to Somalia.[186][187] The SBU has been deployed alongside the two destroyers to Somalia on 14 March 2009.[188] According to JMSDF officials, the deployment would "regain the trust of the shipping industry, which was lost during the war."[189] The JMSDF task force would be deployed in Somalia for 4 months.[190] In their first mission, the Takanami-class destroyer JDS DD-113 Sazanami was able to ward off pirates attempting to hijack a Singaporean cargo ship.[191] In addition, JMSDF P-3Cs are to be deployed in June from Djibouti to conduct surveillance on the Somali coast.[192][193] The House of Representatives of Japan has passed an anti-piracy bill, calling for the JMSDF to protect non-Japanese ships and nationals, though there are some concerns that the pro-opposition House of Councillors may reject it.[194] The Diet of Japan has passed an anti-piracy law that called for JMSDF forces to protect all foreign ships traveling off the coast of Somalia aside from protecting Japanese-owned/manned ships despite a veto from the House of Councillors, which the House of Representatives have overturned.[195] In 2009, the destroyers Harusame and DD-154 Amagiri left port from Yokusuka to replace the two destroyers that had been dispatched earlier on March 2009.[196] Under current arrangements, Japan Coast Guard officers would be responsible for arresting pirates since SDF forces are not allowed to have powers of arrest.[197]

The South Korean navy is also making plans to participate in anti-piracy operations after sending officers to visit the US Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain and in Djibouti.[198] The South Korean cabinet had approved a government plan to send in South Korean navy ships and soldiers to the coast of Somalia to participate in anti-pirate operations.[157] The ROKN was sending the Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin class destroyer DDH 976 Munmu the Great to the coast of Somalia.[199] The Cheonghae Unit task force was also deployed in Somalia under CTF 151.[200]

The Swiss government calls for the deployment of Army Reconnaissance Detachment operators to combat Somali piracy with no agreement in Parliament[201] as the proposal was rejected after it was voted.[202] Javier Solana had said that Swiss soldiers could serve under the EU's umbrella.[203]

The Philippine government ordered the dispatch of a Naval Gunfire Liaison Officers to work with the US Navy's 5th Fleet as part of its contribution against piracy.[204]

On 12 June 2009, Bulgaria also announced plans to join the anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and protect Bulgarian shipping, by sending a frigate with a crew of 130 sailors.[205]

The Danish Institute for Military Studies has in a report[dead link] proposed to establish a regionally based maritime unit: a Greater Horn of Africa Sea Patrol, to carry out surveillance in the area to secure free navigation and take on tasks such as fishery inspection and environmental monitoring. A Greater Horn of Africa Sea Patrol would comprise elements from the coastal states – from Egypt in the north to Tanzania in the south. The unit would be established with the support of the states that already have a naval presence in the area.[206]

In February 2010, Danish special forces from the Absalon freed 25 people from the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged vessel Ariella after it was hijacked by pirates off the Somali coast. The crew members had locked themselves into a store-room.[207][208]

Southern African waters are becomingly an increasingly attractive alternative to the more protected Eastern African sea lanes. The recent rise in counter-piracy patrols is pushing more pirates down the coast line into unprotected areas of the Indian Ocean, which will require the joint navies’ current patrols to widen their search area. [209]



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 include 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.[210] 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.[19] 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.[19] These numerous security measures appear to have borne fruit, as many pirates were apprehended in 2010, including a prominent leader.[18] Puntland's security forces also reportedly managed to force out the pirate gangs from their traditional safe havens such as Eyl and Gar'ad,[211] with the pirates now primarily operating from Hobyo, El Danaan and Harardhere in the neighboring Galmudug region.[211]


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;[212] 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.[212][213]

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.[18][20][21]


The government of Somaliland, a self-declared republic that is internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia,[214] 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.[215]

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.[216]

United Nations

In June 2008, following the letter of the Transitional Federal Government to the President of the Council asking for assistance from the international community in its efforts to address acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coast of Somalia, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a declaration authorizing nations that have the agreement of the Transitional Federal Government to enter Somali territorial waters to deal with pirates.[217] 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.[218]

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.[219] 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."[220] 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."[221]

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.[222] Four ships, a Chinese fishing boat, a Turkish cargo ship, a Malaysian tug, and a private yacht were seized by pirates that same day.[223] Resolution 1851 takes current anti-piracy measures a step further.[224]

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.[225]


Kenya has become the leading criminal court system for Somali pirates captured in international waters. In the shadow of Fort Jesus, a 16th-century Portuguese stronghold that truly belongs to the era of slave raiders and pirate ships, is the office of Kenya’s premier pirate lawyer, Mr Francis Kadima. “When I first started handling pirate cases, I thought these guys would be like kidnappers, strong, you know, and really crafty and sophisticated,” Mr. Kadima said. “But not these guys. They’re just ordinary. If anything, they’re expressionless.” [226]

Kenya is emerging as the venue of choice for piracy cases and an important piece of the worldwide crackdown on piracy. The spate of hijackings off Somalia’s coast has stiffened international resolve. Foreign warships would catch suspected pirates cruising around in speedy skiffs with guns and ladders and then dump them back on the Somali beach because of sticky legal questions. Those days are just about gone. When it comes to putting pirates on trial, there are some practical complications, like serving papers to witnesses who may be Filipino or Kenyan sailors with no mailing addresses who spend all year at sea. Or finding a Somali translator in Mumbai, India, or Copenhagen. In light of those problems, most nations have been hesitant to undertake piracy trials. As a result, there is growing support for the Kenyan solution. In 2008 - 2009 more than six dozen Somali pirates sat behind bars in Shimo la Tewa, Mombasa’s notoriously decrepit prison, which just so happens to be a few miles up the beach from some of this country’s most magnificent palm-fringed resorts. Western diplomats are hoping that this courtroom effort, coupled with a reinvigorated military response involving warships from more than a dozen nations, will put a dent in Somalia’s stubborn piracy problem. At one meeting in Brussels in 2009, donor nations pledged more than $200 million for Somalia, much of it for security, on land and at sea. In 2008, Somali pirates hijacked more than 40 ships, netting tens of millions of dollars in ransom. Many major shipping companies are now opting to sail all the way around Africa instead of risking the Somali seas. [226]

Many of the suspects arrested in military operations in the Gulf of Aden in recent years have been set free for lack of evidence. Nearby countries in Africa have been reluctant to take on the burden of trials. In 2008, the Royal Navy was instructed by the Foreign Office not to arrest pirates for fear of breaching their human rights.[227]

In May 2010, a Yemeni court sentenced six Somali pirates to death and jailed six others for 10 years each for hijacking a Yemeni oil tanker, killing one cabin crew member and leaving another missing in April 2009.[228]

In May 2010, another Somali, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, pleaded guilty in a New York federal court to seizing a United States-flagged ship Maersk Alabama and kidnapping its captain last year. He pled guilty, and was sentenced to 33 years imprisonment.[229]

The first European trial of alleged Somali pirates opened in the Netherlands in May 2010. They were arrested in the Gulf of Aden in January 2009 when their high-speed boat was intercepted by a Danish frigate while allegedly preparing to board the cargo ship Samanyolu, which was registered in the Dutch Antilles.[230] The pirates were sentenced to five years in prison, which was less than the maximum possible sentence. It is unlikely the men will be returned to Somalia after their sentence, as Somalia is considered too dangerous for deportation. One of the five has already applied for asylum in the Netherlands. Consequently, there are concerns that trials in European courts would encourage, rather than deter, pirates.[227]

On 1 April 2010, the USS Nicholas (FFG-47) was on patrol off the Somali coast when it took fire from men in a small skiff. After chasing down the skiff and its mothership, US military captured five Somalis.[231] Judge Raymond A. Jackson, a Federal District Court judge in Norfolk, Virginia threw out the piracy charge, which dates from enactment in 1819 when piracy was defined only as robbery at sea. The penalty for piracy is mandatory life in prison. The U.S. government is appealing the ruling.[232] In March 2011 the five Somalis were sentenced to life for piracy to run consecutively with the 80-year term.[233] In the same month 13 Somalis and one Yemeni suspected of hijacking and killing four Americans aboard a yacht made their first appearance in federal court in Norfolk.[234]

On 28 January 2011, pursuant to the naval engagement of the pirate mother vessel MV Prantalay (a hijacked Thai trawler) by the INS Cankarso, the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard killed 10 pirates and apprehended 15, while rescuing 20 Thai and Myanmarese fishermen being held aboard the ship as hostages. The rescued fishermen were sent to Kochi while the 15 pirates, of Somali, Ethiopian and Kenyan origin, have been taken to Mumbai. The Mumbai Police have confirmed that they have registered a case against the pirates for attempt to murder and various other provisions under the Indian Penal Code and the Passports Act for entering the Indian waters without permission.[73]

The Somali government has questioned the authority of foreign countries to try the pirates abroad. The European Union has attempted to focus the prosecutions locally by involving Somalia's neighbors,[235] but Somali authorities have called for the pirates to be tried at home.

Private initiatives

There have been reports of pirates repelled by private initiatives. One such case would have occurred by the end of 2008, by armed personnel of transportation entrepreneur Barthe Cortes.[236][237]

Other vessel owners and shipping line companies have also hired private security outfits for assistance. One such firm is Espada Logistics and Security Group based in San Antonio, Texas, whose security officers provide on-board protection from a ship's point of entry to its point of destination. They also offer anti-piracy training en route to the Gulf of Aden,[238] and have teamed up with African Shipping Lines, a leading international shipping line company, to provide security to vessels traveling along the coast of East Africa.[239] Another private venture is MUSC, which specializes in counterpiracy and ship's security.[240]

Proposed solutions

In November 2008, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, a group of ship-owners representing 75% of the world's independent tanker fleet, asked for United Nations intervention. It called on the United Nations to co-ordinate anti-piracy patrols, and suggested the possibility of a naval blockade of Somalia and monitoring all vessels leaving the country's coastline. However, NATO responded by saying that it would be impossible to effectively blockade Somalia's vast coast.[241] It also suggested that all home ports of Somali pirates be blockaded, or that ground forces be inserted in Somalia itself to destroy pirate bases.[242]

Ultimately, many authors[who?] argue that the long-term solution to Somali piracy is political securitisation. Governments would have to employ socioeconomic measures such as poverty alleviation and good governance in order to deal with piracy (and even terrorism) effectively. In particular, a sustainable solution requires the establishment not only of effective governance but also the rule of law, reliable security agencies, and alternative employment opportunities for the Somali people.[243] This however, would suggest possible military intervention, which there is a presence of animosity towards the idea since 1993's Operation Restore Hope.

On September 12, 2011 Philip Muyanga, a prominent Money Markets columnist with Business Daily reported how sea piracy is driving up the cost of insurance for importers. Mr. Francis Kadima a prominent Kenyan lawyer and Human Rights advocate said commercial interests could not replace fundamental rights of individuals. Mr. Kadima was quoted as saying: “There are no statistics that piracy trials have reduced piracy”. [244]

See also


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