Naval vessels from about
10 nations will soon be patrolling the waters off the Somali coast, trying to
prevent pirates from hijacking cargo ships. US ships currently surround one
hijacked vessel, believed to be loaded with tanks and other weapons. The
original destination of those weapons is in dispute.
area where most of the hijackings occur is in the Gulf of Aden separating
Somalia and Yemen. More than 20 hijackings have been reported so far this year.
Ships carrying food aid for Somalia and elsewhere often use the route.
Blackwater, a firm providing thousands of private contractors in Iraq, is
offering its services to battle pirates.
Berube is a college professor in the US state of Maryland, who has done
extensive research and writing on piracy. He spoke to VOA English to Africa
Service reporter Joe De Capua about the use of private contractors in
think it's important to note first that historically this has been done. In
fact, several hundred years ago, when piracy was rampant off the coast of
Africa, it brought English trade in that region to a standstill. And the East
India Company actually employed private convoys to protect their ships from
pirates. But I think in this day and age, we've seen a rise in piracy because
of a number of factors, not the least of which is we've seen a decrease in the
number of regular navy ships. And that's not just the United States. That's the
British Royal Navy. That's other countries as well. So, there can be just so
many ships operating at so many places at the same time," he says.
a matter of quantity, not necessarily quality.
have very capable ships, probably the most capable ships in the world and the
most capable sailors. But you also have to consider that quantity has a quality
all of its own," he says.
says that the length of a ships tour of duty in the Gulf of Aden can vary.
"That would depend on what kind of agreements they have locally and with each
other. That brings up another issue and that is the issue of rules of
engagement. Different countries may have different rules of engagement, for
example. Earlier this year, the United Nations did try to account for the
situation with UN resolution 1816, which essentially provides cooperating
navies with the ability to enter into traditional Somali territorial waters. So
we'll see what happens with that," he says.
of the private escort duty may outweigh the risk of sailing unprotected.
says, "That would depend I think on the contracts themselves, but if you are a
shipping company, for example, you would have to balance off the cost of
providing that extra protection versus the potential loss of revenue… The Times
of London recently reported, that because of the ten-fold increase in shipping
insurance costs through the Gulf of Aden, we were looking at a potential of at
least $160 million a year just in additional insurance rates for companies.
That's not inclusive of course of other costs such as delays in shipment.
Because if you are going from port A to port B, there is a daily investment and
if you lose that investment because a ship has been taken by pirates for say,
45, 60 or 90 days, you have a significant loss to your company. There is the
potential for the loss of life."
are other potential costs as well. He says, "If you look at the average rate
according to most media, the ransom has ranged anywhere from a million to two
million (US dollars). One paper recently reported that there's one ship in the
region now that the ransom was at about $32 million. It's since gone down
says that his research shows most agree private contractors would provide
escort duty and not hunt down pirates. "This is really simply just an extension
of security that is already provided on some ships. We have armed riders for
example. Some shipping companies are providing people on board to protect
themselves from pirates," he says.
He says, however, they must comply with
international law, as well as local agreements.