Raising Fears Somali Pirates Menace is Back

A month ago, off the northern Somalia's coast, a group of pirates seized the oil tanker Aris 13 carrying eight sailors of Sri Lanka. The Comoros-flagged tanker owned by the Armi Shipping (Panama & United Arab Emirates-based international company) was heading at the Bosaso port, when had been boarded by two dozen armed men, who less than forty-eight hours after has abandoned it and unconditionally released the entire crew.

A maritime policeman guarded an oil tanker after its release. Photo Credit Abdiqani Hassan/Reuters
A maritime policeman guarded an oil tanker after its release. Photo Credit Abdiqani Hassan/Reuters

Although the story has had a positive outcome, has caused uproar because it was the first hijacking of a commercial vessel in the area since 2012. And everything seemed to predict that it would not remain an isolated event, but the first of a new series of attacks.

The confirmation came punctually last month during which eight other ships were boarded, half of which has not been seized, thanks to the intervention of Somali, Indian and Chinese naval patrols, which promptly respond to requests for assistance sent by radio from crews.

After five years, it is so returned to materialize the threat of attacks by Somali pirates, which between 2005 and 2011 had made highly insecure the ocean area of Gulf of Aden area and the Somali coast of the Indian Ocean, where just in 2011, to the height of the phenomenon, were recorded 237 attacks, 736 people and 32 merchant held hostage, as well as damage of around $ 8 billion.

Analysts believe that the return of piracy is due to a number of factors such as drought, famine, corruption, the increase in smuggling weapons, the influence of the Islamic State and the drastic reduction of patrols of the various international programs sea control, many of which have been moved to the Mediterranean to cope with the crisis of migrants. Not to mention, that in the last five years, Somali pirates have not disappeared and only a handful of their historical leaders were arrested and convicted.

Another major factor which has encouraged the resumption of buccaneers assault is due to the fact that local authorities have issued authorizations to fish in the territorial waters to foreign fishing vessels, which practice large-scale illegal fishing by destroying the coastal ecosystem of the area.

Recently, four South Korean ships have received fishing permits improperly, with the consent of corrupt officials of the Somali government. Other fishing boats got their permissions directly from the Puntland authorities, in contravention of the Somali law, which provides for the issuance of commercial fishing licenses only by the federal government in Mogadishu.

Late last year, the Garoe government sold fishing licenses to China for ten million dollars, despite the law prevents it. In addition, the Puntland would also illegally sold permits to seven vessels flying Djibouti Flag.

In addition to heavily impact on local fish stocks, these fishing boats damage nets and are sinking many small boats of local fishermen. In most cases, Somali pirates were just fishermen who had suffered serious economic losses caused by foreign vessels. Then they were dedicated to the maritime banditry to survive.

Therefore, the resumption of piracy in Somalia was a fairly predictable phenomenon. However, it has substantial differences with that of the past as the lack of experience and smaller aggressiveness so far demonstrated by the new pirates than their predecessors.

This is confirmed by the last two boardings. In the first case, the pirates surrendered and released the ship to avoid losses, while in the second, have directly chosen to stand down before naval forces rescued the ship.

The pirates of the past decade had weapons and explosives, were well trained and ready for anything. For this, they would not be intimidated and facts rather than to free a captured ship, they would have sunk it without any hesitation.

The new ones have been shown to have little experience, but they are no less dangerous than old ones because unpredictable and lacking a strategy. Their actions seem to arise in the wake of the emotions and also the means used and the timing of the attacks seem totally improvised. For international missions still present in the area, so it is difficult to protect ships from boardings.

In the short term, the solution to piracy's resurgence probably looks a lot like what drove it down five years ago. First, it is the strengthening of the naval patrol along with the adoption of new preventive measures, by the shipping company. Another weapon to prevent attacks is to act on the ground, politically, to ensure the local population more resources and revenue. Meanwhile, however, Somali pirates are back in business with hijack.

@afrofocus

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