An analysis of the Somali piracy in the Indian Ocean for 2005-2011 has been conducted in terms of evolution and modus operandi (method of operation).
The piracy that has harrowed the waters close to Somalia in the last decade and the measures that the international community has carried out to repress it are two events with extensive media and political repercussions, all over the world.
The main objective of the Somali pirates is to hijack ships and kidnap crews, with the aim of obtaining a plentiful ransom. However, despite their financial motive, this is of special relevance in aspects related to security. The fact that it is taking place in one of the main commercial shipping routes on the planet (the one that runs between the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden) where over 200,000 ships travel each year. A particular type of response has been developed in some waters that are particularly of interest in terms of fishing resources.
This is where the biggest military naval concentration in recent decades has been seen, and the European Union has set its first naval mission in history underway, under the name of EU NAVFOR/ATALANTA. In the same way, NATO has deployed three anti-piracy operations; different countries (India, Russia, Japan, China, etc.) have decided to send large ships to that region with the aim of protecting their merchant vessels.
The aim of this article is to find out about the modus operandi of the Somali pirates, based upon the identification and studying of all of the incidents that have been reported in the news, committed during the most intensive period of piracy activity, between 2005 and 2011. An analysis is made of their evolution, so as to become adapted to the different responses -mostly of a military nature - that have been carried out so as to repress this phenomenon. This work falls within the framework of research of an extensive nature, whose objective is to understand the nature of modern-day maritime piracy, on the basis of studying what form this criminal activity has taken in the Indian Ocean in recent years, along with the threats that arise for international security. To do this, it is considered to be the particular form of activity of organised crime, which has nonetheless developed, in the face of the military response deployed by the international community, strategies that are particular to a weak point of an asymmetric conflict.
Maritime domains of the countries and of the areas of operations of the Somali pirates between 2005 and 2011
The methodology that is based on identifying and analysing Somali pirate incidents, in accordance with the proposed categories, has proved usefulin understanding the modus operandi of Somali piracy. This enables us to suggest that this methodology should be used to study other cases of maritime piracy that have appeared in recent years, for example in the Gulf of Aden. This would facilitate the undertaking of comparative studies that would make it possible to make progress in understanding modern sea piracy.
As regards the study of the evolution of Somali piracy, it is very interesting to look at the consequences that the changes in diverse elements and factors may produce.The key question is whether piracy will disappear if the internal conditions of Somalia change. Or whether, on the other hand, this is an activity that will continue over time and that will adapt itself to the evolution of the country in the coming years. Given that the two main factors that make it possible for Somali piracy to carry on are the payment of the ransoms and the corruption amongst local authorities, it is appropriate to go into greater depth in investigating both of these variables. On the other hand, it is considered necessary to analyse the evolution of unlawful fishing by foreign fleets within the Somali maritime domain, as well as the effect this has on the investigation and prosecution of other acts such as dumping toxic products in the waters near Somalia.
Similarly, in relation to the regional context, it is worth going into greater detail about the effect of Somali piracy on the economies of neighbouring countries (tourism in Kenya and the Seychelles, fishing in Mozambique, etc.) and aspects related to the degree of security that a change in the regional context may entail.
In relation to international terrorism, it seems opportune to continue with the study of the contacts that have recently been initiated between the pirates and Al Shabab, so as to ascertain whether this is merely a relationship that seeks to gain mutual economic benefit or it could give rise to some of the pirate leaders becoming more actively involved in the internal Somali conflict, even by means of them participating through financing terrorist activities in neighbouring countries in the region.
It is also necessary to study whether, if the use of security surveillance staff spreads, the deterrence effect of this means that merchant ships will be hijacked when companies are unable to hire them as they do not have sufficient financial capacity to do this. This phenomenon could have a bearing on the duration of the hijacks, which could become prolonged, as has already happened in some casesin which the owner or the country of origin of the crew have not felt that they can meet the ransom demand payment. A second consequence could consist of an increase in the scale of the violence used by the pirates, if they feel they are unable to hijack ships.
This is why it is necessary to investigate whether the confrontations between pirates and security teams are going to rise; or whether the exchanges of shooting end up causing fatalities in both groups. It is likely that the shipping companies and owners that have fewer economic resources, which cannot assume the cost of hiring private security, will decide to get their boats to sail around the African continent, avoiding sailing in high-risk waters. This fact could economically benefit the strongest shipping companies and reduce competition in the sector. Similarly, we should investigate whether this phenomenon could lead to some kind of extra cost in the price of the products transported and the impact of this on the companies affected and on the end consumer.
Read more in the Analysis of the Somali pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean 2005-2011: Evolution and Modus Operandi
By Fernando Ibanez Gomez & Miguel Angel Esteban Navarro