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20 Apr 11

Alarming Trends in Somalia Piracy Front

Alarming Trends in Somalia Piracy Front

Unfortunately we have been witnessing escalating violence in the Somalia area lately. Furthermore we have seen significant milestones towards developing a robust anti-piracy culture, more specifically :

1. On Mid March the Dutch parliament has agreed to deploy Dutch troops on board a number of Dutch merchant ships to protect them against piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. The only party to vote against the measure was the Socialist Party, which said too many things about the mission were unclear. (Full story at http://www.safety4sea.com/article.php?id=3210 )

2. On April the 7th, the fully loaded VLCC MV Irene SL, transporting $200 million (of crude oil, was released by Somali pirates (after 57 days) who claimed that they received a record ransom on the area of $13 million. The vessel sailed to Durban where the South African authorities assisted by INTERPOL are scheduling to launch a thorough investigation of the incident. More than 30 officials are expected to attend the investigation process, that is expected to be one of a kind. (Full story at http://www.safety4sea.com/article.php?id=3593 )

3. On April the 7th, Jama Idle Ibrahim, a Somali national, was sentenced in Washington to serve a 25-year sentence for his role in an attack on the CEC Future. Because the sentence will run concurrently with a 30-year sentence already imposed in the case of the Navy ship, however, Ibrahim won't spend any additional time in prison. The case in Washington is believed to be unique in that it's the first time a pirate known to have captured a ship and obtained a ransom was prosecuted in the United States. In 2008, Ibrahim and other pirates held the CEC Future captive for more than two months before being paid a $1.7 million ransom and departing. (Full story at http://www.safety4sea.com/article.php?id=3414 )

4. On April the 15th in a move that could change the pirate-hostage equation, Somali pirates received a $5 million ransom for the release of Asphalt Venture, whose ownership is located in Mumbai, India, however they decided to release the ship and some of the crew but kept all the Indian crew members as hostages. A pirate told the Indian crew members' hostage ordeal is being prolonged in retaliation for the arrests of more than 100 Somali pirates by the Indian Navy. "We decided to keep the Indian because India is holding our colleagues," the pirate, Hassan Farah, said. "We released the other crew members who sailed away from our coast. We will keep these Indians until the Indians release our colleagues." . (Full story at http://www.safety4sea.com/article.php?id=3571 )

5. On April the 18th, Mohammed Abdulahi Omar Asharq, Somali transitional government's foreign minister has told during a counter Piracy Conference in Dubai that shipping firms should not pay ransoms to pirates as it leads to more attacks. The world is losing the battle against piracy, he warned as he and other officials emphasised that the solution to piracy lies on land. He also slammed world leaders for being so slow to act over his country's problems, despite leaping into action for conflicts in Libya and Ivory Coast. (Full story at http://www.safety4sea.com/article.php?id=3585 )

What is evident from the above : The International community is still trying to find an effective cure for the escalating Piracy Situation in the wider Somalia area.

The problem was initially attracted the international attention due to the piracy of Sirious Star, the VELA operated VLCC in the middle of the Indian ocean. Then it was the Atalanda Operation that evolved into a highly successful counter piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden. Unfortunately we have to fight a war here. As soon as the counter piracy operations prove to be effective the pirates are changing tactics to find an effective offensive cure for the defensive strategy employed.

For many people in the International Community the solution lies in the Somali land. Things need to be sorted out and this has not been achieved without the international help, a help that has been provided without hesitation in other situations like Libya, Iraq etc.

Despite all of the above and the emerging trend of arming the vessels, as this is the only effective piracy deterrent measure so far there is no light shaded to the key objective of counter piracy operations.

What is the objective(s) of the counter piracy operation?

  1. Ensure safety of the crew, cargo and property in general from the pirates
  2. Ensure continuous flow of global trade

To work within these objectives you will find out that the Atalanta Operation initiated with the following on focus :

1. Destruction of the land bases the Somali pirates use to launch their many sea attacks from.

2. Protect merchant vessels in the waterways between Somali and Yemen.

3. Protect fishermen in the Indian Ocean.

You need to be honest now in order to see what is going on :

Are these objectives achieved : NO

Has the international community including the naval forces made any improvements so far by improving the efficiency of the operation : Certainly YES.

Is it sufficiently effective ? Certainly NO

Have we learned anything from our mistakes over the last 4 years in the Somalia Area ? NOT CLEAR

Several Failures of the International Community may be recorded in the Somali front, however someone has to stay on the two major failures here:

1. IMB in its dedicated web page http://www.icc-ccs.org/piracy-reporting-centre/piracynewsafigures indicates that currently the Somali Pirates are holding 26 vessels and 532 seafarer hostages. This is certainly a failure of the International Community to stop such an annoying trend. The flow of global trade may not be the same after that.

2. Still more than 500 seafarers are being held as hostages. How exactly are we going to attract fresh blood into the industry ? Many companies are providing some sort of compensation bonus to the released crew after a piracy Incident. Is this enough ? How about the next vessel, the next incident and so on. The industry has failed to protect its key asset : PEOPLE

To see the truth as is at the moment the cost of combating piracy seems more than the cost of Piracy it shelf. The cost of ransoms and the associated counter piracy operations may be in the round of billions but it is LESS than the profits out of this equation. As long as the industry DOES NOT solving the equation properly the piracy will thrive. And sooner or later we will see such a trend to be transformed into epidemic. It is a simple law of nature.

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Apostolos Belokas
Apostolos Belokas
Managing Editor, Safety4sea and Principal Consultant & CEO, SQE Marine Group
About me
Apostolos is a Maritime QHSE expert with 20 year background in shipping acting as a Technical, Marine, Safety & Training Superintendent, Consultant, Trainer and Project Manager. Apostolos has successfully completed a wide range of QHSE projects including more than 250 management system projects (ISM/ISO 9001-14001-18001/TMSA/MLC), 500 vessel and office audits to various standards and he has personally trained more than 2,500 people in a wide variety of QHSE subjects. Apostolos is holding Mechanical Engineering Bachelor and Masterís specialising in Energy & Environment and Masterís Degrees in Maritime Business and Business Administration (MBA).
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