The dramatic increase in piracy off the East African coast, in particular off the coast of Somalia – and recently the Saudi super-tanker off Kenya’s coast as well as the Chinese and Greek vessels - has led to an increase in naval activity in the area aimed at protecting vessels that may be targeted by the pirates. US and British warships, known as Task Force 150 (the international naval and air effort in the Gulf of Aden), have counter-piracy as part of their mission. But this mission is restricted in its scope as Task Force 150 has more serious matters to contend with. Some PMCs, along with a single independent Russian warship, also find themselves in this area engaged in protection and counter-piracy duties off these dangerous coasts.
It is only a matter of time before this type of crime escalates off the coasts of West and Central Africa and yields like-wise valuable pickings to this scum of the sea.
Operating with almost impunity, these pirates, joined by local criminal elements and fishermen who see the possibilities of making a quick million dollars, have been encouraged to continue with their criminal activities by the shipping companies who are only too keen to pay the large ransoms the pirates demand in order to secure the release of their vessels, crews and cargo. Whereas it is hoped that the shipping companies will do everything in their power to effect the release of their crews who man their ships - and the cargo they have been entrusted with - what about the ships? Do some shipping companies really want their ships back?
I found a bit of research into the subject somewhat disturbing. An analyst in military and intelligence affairs wrote: “In the past, piracy was suppressed by foreign navies destroying the towns of villages the pirates used as bases. This is no longer politically acceptable…”
The implication of this ludicrous statement is that it is politically unacceptable to stop piracy. Further analysis of this statement concludes that it is the political right of these seaborne criminals to act the way they do. The recent thwarting of pirates by the Royal Navy was encouraging but why is no-one willing to attack them aggressively in the harbours and villages they use as bases? Could it be that there exists an inherent fear of the Somalis who have, in the past, repulsed the poorly planned and badly led attacks against them?
The ransoms the large shipping companies are willing to pay to secure the release of their vessels and crews totals tens of millions of dollars, money that most certainly is used to further perpetuate piracy, secure weapons and ammunition, fast boats, GPS, satellite radios and so on. This in itself merely encourages the pirates. Besides, how much of this money is passed on to radical terrorist groups?
Stopping piracy, especially in waters where it is a definite danger, is really not a difficult matter. It requires a very simple strategy and the desire to implement the strategy - at a fraction of the costs that have been spent on ransoms. It does not require massive warships patrolling the area. Furthermore, the aim ought to be to prevent the ship from being taken – not to only do something once the ship has been taken.
If it is politically acceptable for pirates to operate and commit crimes at sea, then surely it is politically acceptable for shipping companies to take whatever action they deem necessary to protect their crews, cargo and ships? This action does however require a commitment to end piracy. The fight needs to be taken to the pirates instead of waiting for them to attack a ship.
But the question needs to be asked: Do the shipping companies really want to stop it or are they quite keen to pay the increased insurance premium, use old ships and hope they get taken by pirates so that the insurance can pay them out?
If that is not the case, then political correctness has legalised piracy.
My next posting will take a look at AFRICOM’s African dilemma.