Sea Transportation: Where Pirates Thrive


July 16, 2007: Piracy around the world is up again, with 85 attacks in the second quarter of this year, versus 66 in that quarter last year, and 41 in 2005. Most of the increase is because of increasing civil disorder in Somalia and Nigeria. So far this year, attacks on ships has more than doubled in Nigeria, and nearly doubled in Somalia. Indonesia still accounts for the most attacks, but increased anti-piracy operations there have caused a decline of 27 percent this year.

Nearly all the piracy is a result of poor policing in coastal villages and ports. Pirates need a base, and one where the cops are not intrusive or, best of all, not present at all. Somalia has not had any government for nearly two decades, and foreign navies are not willing to patrol Somalia's territorial waters. Ships are warned to stay far away from the Somali coast, which means the pirates have turned to attacking UN food ships. Another ploy is to have a larger ship act as a mother ship for speedboats, that can pursue ships in international waters. The mothership stays within Somali territorial waters, where foreign navies will not go.

In Nigeria, the government is faced with a growing rebellion by tribes living along the coast and the Niger river delta. This is where most of the country's oil is, and the tribes there have not seen much of the oil money in the last half century. So the criminal gangs have been tapping oil pipelines, stealing the oil, and buying guns and speedboats. Now they attack oil company boats that service off shore oil facilities. The oil workers, especially foreigners, are kidnapped for ransom, and anything worth stealing on the boats is taken. Larger vessels are now being attacked, and piracy is growing into a major problem there.

The most important anti-piracy operation, in the vital Straits of Malacca, piracy has been just about wiped out.




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