Sea Transportation: A History of How to Deal With Pirates


January 9, 2006: The Somali pirates now have the reputation of being the worst in the world. The Somali coast is basically off-limits to all ships, unless they are prepared to fight their way through. In the past, pirates have been suppressed when they were sought out, hunted down, and forcefully destroyed along with their bases, usually by a single major power acting unilaterally and in strength. In Somalia, it's pretty clear we know where the bases are. But the pirates seem to have cleverly ensconced themselves in coastal fishing villages villages, which also host smugglers as well. So any strikes on these bases will yield a lot of "civilian" casualties. The Somalis now know to have someone around with a vidcam, to take pictures of these atrocities. Somalia has Internet access, so everyone knows these "atrocity" videos would be everywhere within hours. The pirates are also well aware of how peacekeepers got fed up with Somali warlord militias during relief efforts in the early 1990s.

The current Somali government, an improvised, transitional affair that controls very little of the country, has a $50 million deal with an American security firm to form and operate a coast guard. But the government is still trying to raise the money from foreign donors. Meanwhile, American and European warships occasionally patrol along portions of the Somali coast. When that happens, the pirates stay out of the way, and return to business as soon as the warships are gone. Most of the time, there are no warships about, and the pirates continue to seize fishing boats and merchant ships that still come by. Many of the smaller fishing boats and freighters are simply looted, the pirates not believing it worth the effort to try and arrange a ransom. This is a form of piracy that still occurs in other parts of the world, like Southeast Asia.


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