Somalia’s pirates come back into the spotlight

Kush Azrael | 11/1/2013, 9:04 a.m.
Somali piracy enjoys widespread support in Somalia. It has gone from fisherman trying to protect their waters to criminals trying ...

A new movie “Captain Phillips” has brought Somali piracy back into the spotlight.

The movie is based on Captain Richard Phipps’ autobiographical book, A Captains Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy Seals, and a Dangerous Day at Sea.” The movie starts with Captain Phillips played by Tom Hanks, leading a normal life before the April 2009 hijacking of his ship. Pirates took Captain Phillips hostage and demanded $ 2 million for his life.

Seal Team 6 made the rescue happen, with commitment and military precision.

In the aforementioned case the hostage taking quickly turned into a standoff between the US military and the pirates. The Obama administration rejected negotiations that could have led to a peaceful release of the hostages. A shoot to kill order reportedly came directly from Obama. But only if the captains life was in “imminent danger.” This was his first military action showing that he had the heart for confrontation since taking office. Obama seems to have gone even further by sending helicopters to circle over the Somali town of Harardhare a known pirate haven. Over the past years military activity has increased in the region with all of the worlds major powers taking part.

Earlier this month a group of Somali pirates were apprehended by an international operation led by the British. They were caught by the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) counter piracy task force after recent attacks on two ships in the Indian Ocean. The CMF is made up of navies from 29 nations. They were seeking the pirates after the supertanker Island Splendor had exchanges gunfire with the pirates. Three days later a Spanish ship was attacked by what was believed to be the same pirates.

As well as telling the story of Captain Phillips the movie also brings to light the saga of Somali pirates.

Somali piracy has cost the world between $6 and $12 billion per year. When the Somali Democratic Republic collapsed in 1991 during civil war, Somalia’s navy fell apart. This left Somalia’s coastline unprotected, leading to fishing boats from other countries

to poach in the region. Other countries ships came and started using Somali waters as a dumping area for toxic waste. In some cases foreign ships destroyed Somali fishing boats.

The Somali fisherman appealed for international help but it fell on deaf ears. The foreigners destroyed the local fishing economy and threatened the food supply. So the local fisherman took up arms to attack the commercial ships to stop them from stealing fish and dumping toxic waste into the area. These were simple fishermen with no one to turn to. From that point forward, the Horn of Africa or Somalia, became a breeding ground for what is now known as the Somali piracy problem.

Somali piracy enjoys widespread support in Somalia. It has gone from fisherman trying to protect their waters to criminals trying to make a fast come up. Somali pirates usually attack commercial ships, take hostages and demand large ransoms. The pirates use small fishing trawlers that launch small boats known as skiffs, to seize large ships. The pirates usually have assault rifles like Ak-47’s. Somali fisherman have, been the brains of the operations but often have the support of local militia men. Before being apprehended the pirates usually throw their weapons overboard, which has made it hard to prosecute them. Pirate funding varies. It usually comes from Somali but has also been known to come from Yemen and other sources. They have been so successful they received funding from local stock exchanges. The profits from pirate attacks, was well over $200 million in 2010. Pirates are known to spend large sums of money with local businesses improving the business climate of Somalis. However the greatest gain is of the fisherman as they have been somewhat successful in defending Somali waters from illegal fishermen making it more profitable for Somali fisherman, which is what started the rise in Somali pirating in the first place.