Experts Make Recommendations to Combat Piracy

“What became clear in 2008 and 2009, and continued into 2010, is that Somali maritime piracy is big business,” stated a policy paper published Wednesday that put forth more than two dozen recommendations to curb if not halt regional maritime piracy.
The paper, Combating Maritime Piracy: A Policy Brief with Recommendations for Action, is the final distillation of a meeting in December of 25 scholars, diplomats, lawyers, military officers, shipping industry officials, and other experts on maritime piracy and Somalia from nine nations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government  under the auspices of the World Peace Foundation as the Cambridge Coalition to Combat Piracy.
The group “proposed that Somali piracy could be contained and then defeated if the United Nations (UN), concerned world powers, and African nations combined with ocean carriers, ship owners, and other industry leaders to mount a concerted, three-pronged approach to reduce the scourge of Somali sea-faring piracy,” the final report stated, adding, “this approach would have to include measures to deter pirates on land as well as at sea, and would necessarily need to employ carrots as well as sticks.”
“Since piracy is but an income-generating industry, not a way of life,” the report concluded, “incentives can wean pirates away from their dangerous pursuits. Those incentives need to be matched with both stepped-up patrols and ship-borne measures that make successful hijackings less likely and more costly.”
“Having carefully considered measures of prevention as well as protection, and having reviewed relevant legal concerns,” the Cambridge Coalition to Combat Piracy issued 38 recommendations in the report released Wednesday “to reduce and, in time, eliminate Somali-based maritime piracy.”
“During the sessions, I argued for the use of armed security on board select commercial ships transiting the region and, if necessary, the use of lethal force to mitigate attacks and boardings by the heavily armed, violent Somali pirates,” Michael McNicholas, managing director of Phoenix Group/Pathfinder Consulting, LLC, told “While my views were somewhat in the minority … they are represented in the final recommendations.”
McNicholas is a former CIA intelligence officer and author of the textbook, Maritime Security: An Introduction.
According to the group’s findings, only “about 1,500 pirates are involved, with seven syndicates and fewer ‘bosses’ controlling separate but linked enterprises largely financed and brokered from Kenya, Dubai, Lebanon, Somalia, and elsewhere. (Russia has also been mentioned.)”
The group’s final report also stated that “the appropriation of sizable ransoms, not thefts of valuable cargo or thefts from individual yachtsmen or seafarers, is the goal. There are no political motives or ideological drivers, despite the widespread assertion (part-fact and part-myth) that piracy began in the earlier years of the last century in retaliation against and in response to European, Egyptian, Indian, Taiwanese, Thai, Korean, and Japanese trawlers illegally fishing in Somali waters and depleting accustomed catches.”
The report, which was written by Robert I. Rotberg, director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government and president of the  World Peace Foundation, stated at the outset that “maritime piracy continues, especially off the Somali coasts, despite significant efforts by shipping companies, captains, and crews; major international surveillance and prevention efforts by naval and air task forces; and growing intelligence about the pirates onshore and offshore. In 2009, pirates attacked a total of 217 ships (22,000 ships passed through the Gulf of Aden alone, and others traversed the wider waters of the Indian Ocean), with 47 successful hijackings and the collection, in 2009, of more than $60 million in ransom payments.”
“Some of the captured merchant ships and crew were held off the Somali coast for as long as nine months before being ransomed. One large oil tanker was ransomed in 2009 for about $5 million, the largest ransom payment on record until the reported $5.5 to $7 million ransom paid for a Greek-owned oil tanker in early 2010,” the report determined.
“In 2008,” the studysays, “only 111 ships were attacked, up from approximately 50 in 2007,” and “of the 2008 attempted hijackings, 32 were successful. About $55 million was delivered to the pirates for ransom in 2008. The profits foregone and losses entailed by being hijacked in both 2008 and 2009 probably equaled the amounts paid in ransom. Thus the costs to the industry each year due to Somali piracy were at least $100 million.”
“At the beginning of 2010, 12 of the 47 vessels successfully hijacked in 2009 were still being held, along with 263 crew  members,” stated the policy paper, noting “they were joined within the first few days of January by two ships, a British cargo vessel taken 600 miles east of Somalia, and a Singaporean chemical tanker en route to India seized in the Gulf of Aden, where no ship had been successfully hijacked since July 2009. At least 24 mariners from those ships joined the 263 already held.”
The group’s collective thinking with regard to making ships harder to capture drew on their diverse experience, resulting in “a number of practical recommendations to combat pirate attacks at sea. None is novel;” the final paper stated, pointing out that “nearly all have been employed in recent months to better or lesser effect.”
However, “together, the utilization of a combination of the … recommendations should enable all but the slowest or weakest merchant vessels from being taken by pirates. These recommendations draw upon the relatively successful actions to reduce piracy in the Gulf of Aden in 2009. With the important exception of armed security aboard vessels, nearly all of these steps are included in the Best Management Practices formally recommended by the International Maritime Organization.”

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