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Somalia’s mean sealanes

September 30, 2008

somalia_pirates_troops.jpgIt’s the stuff for a Hollywood blockbuster to rival Ridley Scott’s 2001 thriller “Black Hawk Down”: A bunch of 50 Somali pirates in speedboats and heavily armed with grenade launchers clamber aboard a Ukranian ship in the Gulf of Aden. They overwhelm the 20-man crew and take control of the ship and its dubious cargo of 33 battle tanks, supposedly destined for the Kenyan military. Six days later and with US navy ships stalking, a shootout breaks out on board among the pirates, killing three.

The hijacking of the MV Faina is only the most high-profile of what is turning into the biggest scourge of sea piracy in modern times. According to the International Maritime Bureau, presumed Somali pirates have attacked more than 60 ships in the area this year. It’s piracy alert website reported on Sept. 26 that four ships had been attacked in the Gulf of Aden within a 48-hour period.

“Intelligence sources revealed that there are now three suspicious vessels in the Gulf of Aden believed to be pirate mother vessels looking to attack ships with the intent to hijack,” it said.somalia_pirates_bossasso.jpg

Somali pirates taking advantage of chaos onshore, where an Islamist insurgency has raged for nearly two years, have intensified attacks this year on vessels plying the main water route linking Asia and the Middle East to Europe. Somalia has been a dysfunctional state since 1991. The upsurge in piracy has sent shipping insurance costs soaring tenfold, according to Lloyds List, and prompting shipowners to call for tougher international action. The alternative would be rerouting sea trade through the Cape of Good Hope, adding thousands of miles to the journey.

somalia_pirates_coastguards1.jpgAn international coalition of 19 states has been scrambling to keep the waterways in the region safe, but its own warships run the risk of deadly attack. France has been championing international action against Somali pirates. It sent its commandos twice this year to rescue its yachts seized in the region and is now spearheading United Nations action to deal with piracy.

What should be the correct international response to the problem? Should the world’s big powers increase their military presence in the Gulf of Aden to protect vital sea lanes? How should the international community address the fundamental issue of chaos in Somalia itself? Can piracy in the region be contained without a solution to the Somali crisis?


Pirates should be exterminated mercilessly. It is outrageous that European humane laws do not allow an adequate action. Somalian pirates do not deserve humane treatment. Only French are taking some action. I bet if there was an american ship captured, US would bomb the hell out of Somalia. This would be the only case when I totally approve US international action…

Posted by Andre | Report as abusive

Every country that uses those shipping lanes should patrol the waters. We cannot be afraid to use violence against these pirates. These are the scum of the earth.

Posted by Marcel | Report as abusive

Bomb them over and over and over. Drop them over board and let them feed the sharks.

Plane gets hikacked in the US they know they will be shot down. Get the same msg over to the pirates your all dead once u take on a ship. Sink it over and done with.

Posted by John Moore | Report as abusive

Easier said than done, arm-chair vigilantes.

Posted by Kurt Harland Larson | Report as abusive

I don’t understand how a handful of pirates can dictate in these sea lanes. They must be getting huge support from the local regime. Hence the only option would be to make it clear to the regime that this cannot go on. US needs to take some active role by supporting the Ukranian commandoes.
One big blow will send them a clear signal that we are serious about stopping this else we all have to pay.

Posted by Santhosh | Report as abusive

We only want to deal with each pirate once. When we have to go in we kill them all. Maybe it will deter others.

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

The piracy attacks off the Somalia coast has been making headlines in the global mainstream media over the past two years or so, but that problem was going on unnoticed longer than that period. After the collapse of the central government in early 1991, numerous foreign fishing boats and other large vessels have stormed into the unmanned Somali waters for illegal fishing quest.

The foreign fishing pirates mainly from the Far East did not only wipe out marine resources including so many types of internationally listed endangered marine species, but inflicted huge damage to the local fishermen, ranging from destruction of fishing materials to unjustified killings.

Therefore, after years of idleness, the local fishers had no other option, but to protect their sole economic mainstay by mobilizing a form of coast guard force, which later split into many freelance groups, going even farer than their initial mandate and hijacking commercial vessels sailing through lanes off the Somali coast.

For sending their shipping vessels to the so-called newfound land in Eastern coast of Africa to fetch stolen lobsters, they are now paying the price of what they’ve been silent over the last 18 years or so. However, finding a lasting solution for the current mayhem in the Gulf of Aden is a sane thought, but it will come after we develop a sense of respect for our territorial sovereignty. Otherwise, JUST Say Somali Coast Guard Servicemen instead of PIRATES,because it is not a no man’s land.


Posted by Liban | Report as abusive

For an average somali in somalia and perhaps across the globe to take what you want by blood and iron is ‘normal’ as long as it doesn’t affect your clan. The sole reason for the ‘existance’ of failed state is nothing but the believe of’ get what you can and want by blood and iron.Be it in South Africa or Norway ” LIBAN ” represents how somalis,atleast majority, perceives what is going on.
AS OF LIBAN, coast guard servicemen of somalia, ARE CREATED TO HIJACK AND TAKE RANSOM.
The only solution for this is to excecute all pirates and let others see what can come next cos they are in international teritory.


This situation just cries out for a business solution. Shipping owners can hire an armed Blackwater (insert contractor of choice) crew at the last port of call before going through this region. Upon arrival at the destination port, they are flown back to the start point. A few “Q ship” episodes and the pirates will not only be fewer in number but much more cautious!

Posted by Hammer | Report as abusive

Massive and prolonged thermonuclear bombardment seems the best solution, at least until something more drastic can be devised. Since the wimpish laws prevent the total extirmination that is the only solution, I imagine this will just go on and on and on.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

I’m Prior U.S. Coat Guard and Piracy happens everyday in every part of the world, in more ways than one. This particular situation is only different because of the cargo…but these same pirates have fired numerous RPG’s at cruise ships in the recent past because, and have also left the wealthy but elderly for dead on islands during their vacation to retrieve thier moored vessel docked elsewhere.


As an American of Somali origin, I have only recently heard about the “pirates’ side of the story” and they do have legitimate points. Firms have taken advantage of the lawlessness in the area to dump toxic waste materials (in violation of environmental law) and illegally poach in territorial waters.

Not only that, but these are some SERIOUS weapons that were secretly being funneled MOST LIKELY to South Sudan where there is an International arms embargo. I don’t think it’s just Ukraine, but the US seems to have a serious stake in this ship too so this shows a lot of people are COMPLICIT in violating arms embargoes in CIVL WAR ZONES so this obviously shows some hypocrisy that the pirates inadvertently exposed.

This is an international scandal, and I bet France was so eager to support anti-piracy measures so they can continue to safely funnel illegal weapons to civil war zones, probably to get some oil or diamonds.

Posted by Ahmed | Report as abusive

I am utterly amazed how people who have no idea of what is happening can talk about things and critisize other people (Liban).

The coast of somaia has been subjected to ruthless people who illigally exploited the maritime resources of Somalia and dumped toxic waste, these people simply don’t care about the environmental, social or economic consequences to the people of their actions.

As Liban says the locals set out to defend their livelihoods as they had no othe alternative. However the situation spiralled out of control and has now become difficult to resolve. To say that violence is all somali people know, as Carlos is implying, is a deeply insulting and ill informed statement. I can sense that some of you are angered at what is happening but that is no excuse for statements such as “Somalian pirates do not deserve humane treatment” and “we have to go in we kill them all. Maybe it will deter others”. What, so are pirates that are of non somali origin to receive humane treatment? Voilance and this kind of rhetoric is not the answer, we have seen that in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The shameful revelation of illigal arms smuggling is a big embarrasment to the countries involves and once again shows that foreign countries act to achive their own aims, wheter it’d be at another people’s expense or not.

Returning to the topic concerned, the kidnapping and piracy is anacceptable and has to be stopped. The Somaliland government (autonomous region) should be adequately equipped to protect it’s shores as foreign forces cannot always be present, then the foreign forces should patrol the remaining waters until the Somali government is capable of protecting it’s shores also. The waters need to be protected so that the locals can resume their livelihood in a reasonable manner and they won’t have to resort to these kind of actions to put bread on the table. For this to happen there needs to be a Democratically elected somali government free of foreign interference, this i believe would lead to the social and economical development that is much needed. However, i do not believe that at this day and age somalia will be alowed to rebuild itself.

These incidents have shown the strategic importance of the Gulf of Aden and surrounding waters, and i hope that the locals will recieve help as to forecome these kind of incidents. Most statements of the above, are absolutely nonsense and i cannot believe that the moderators have allowed such hatred and dislike to be shown towards Somali people, becuase that is how i perceive it.

Posted by peter | Report as abusive

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