News / Africa

Naval Patrols Reduce Somali Pirate Attacks, but Threat Continues

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

International naval patrols against Somali pirates have made shipping lanes much safer.  But they’ve not been able to eliminate the threat altogether.  Naval experts look at what’s been done and what could be done to keep the pirates at bay.

Naval vessels from many countries now patrol the seas off Somalia and Kenya, protecting merchant and humanitarian ships.  Claude Berube, a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, says generally they’ve done a good job.

“The short answer is yes, to a degree, and specifically to a geographic region,” he says.

Retired U.S. naval commander John Patch, an associate professor at the U.S. Army War College, agrees.  

“Success, yes, but in a very limited area.  And that is the transit scheme, a kind of traffic scheme they’ve set up, in the Gulf of Aden, where admittedly most of the most significant maritime traffic is going.  But it is in the large part only a small area,” he says.

Safer shipping lanes, so pirates seek booty elsewhere

Berube says the shipping traffic pattern is called the I.R.T.C, the International Recognized Transit Corridor.

“It’s very heavily patrolled by coalition and partner nations.  Consequently, the number of attacks have dropped precipitously.  And the number of successful attacks are down significantly as well,” he says.

Recent reports say Somali pirates have attacked more than 30 ships this year, with less than a third being seized.  Berube is currently co-authoring a book on private maritime security, dealing with responses to piracy, terrorism and other water-borne security risks.

He says since the Gulf of Aden is heavily patrolled, the pirates look for easy prey elsewhere.

“The first major shift was from the Gulf of Aden and the coastline of Somalia to a broader region off of Somalia and the Somali Basin, a couple of hundred miles.  The next phase was branching further out, several hundred miles out to sea in the Indian Ocean,” he says.

The Naval Academy professor adds, “There have been a number of attacks also in the Arabian Sea and some that have gone out as far as 1200 miles (1930 kilometers).”

Anti-piracy tactics

The pirates are willing to go great distances because piracy has become very big business, possibly in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  The pirates use mother ships to launch skiffs against merchant ships that are not protected by naval patrols.  As a result, maritime firms have taken counter measures.

“Some are looking at ships that can do greater than 15 knots.  Some are looking at ships with far higher transoms that make it far more difficult for pirates to approach them and to climb aboard.  Some have actually pursued armed riders,” says Berube.

One anti-piracy company uses a device that bombards approaching pirate vessels with powerful sound waves.  Also, when naval patrols seize a pirate mother ship, they usually sink it after taking the pirates on board.

The rule of law

Recently, a U.S. Navy ship fired on a pirate skiff after it was attacked. A pirate was killed.  And in another recent incident, a private security team member also shot and killed a pirate after a vessel was attacked.  So, why not simply blow pirate vessels out of the water every time?  Retired naval commander Patch says it’s not that simple.

“I think it comes down to rules of engagement.  If you don’t see the act actually being committed or you’re not actually fired on, our rules of engagement are pretty strict on when you can use deadly force,” he says.

And he says rules of engagement also make it a legal issue.

“No commanding officer of any ship wants a situation where he used force and then is told a week later that he shouldn’t have.  That he violated the rules and under international law maybe murder would be applied to that.  It’s a dangerous line to cross,” he says.
Professor Berube says use of deadly force is the last option for maritime operators.  And the recent killing of a Somali pirate by a private security guard won’t be forgotten.

“One told me quite frankly that if we fired, we failed.  The point is not to engage offensive against Somali pirates.  Their goal is to protect their client,” he says.

But legal questions are being raised.

“What we are going to see, though, is some sort of litigation in the future, we suspect, because this hasn’t been done before.  This was just the first case of a private guard killing a pirate.  Nothing was done in the courts, as we know.  But this is something to keep in mind in the future,” says Berube.

And attacking pirate bases in Somalia is not an easy option because Somalia is still considered a sovereign nation.

Different approach

Commander Patch believes he has come up with a proposal to deal with Somali pirates.  He outlines it in the Armed Forces Journal.

“The proposal is send the warships home.  And let’s get an international task force together of maritime police and put them inside Somali territorial waters under U.N. auspices, with a U.N. Security Council resolution giving them authority,” he says.

The maritime police would be a preventive measure, too.

“Smaller ships, closer in, to prevent the piracy problem from leaving Somali territorial waters.  Let’s let what is essentially maritime crime be treated by police forces, by law enforcement,” says Patch.

Professor Berube says another option might be to have private maritime security companies eventually take over the mission.

Both Berube and Patch say the U.S. and other nations must support Kenya and the Seychelles, which have agreed to detain and try captured pirates.  But Kenya says it may not be able to continue that mission, saying it’s low on resources.  Patch says anti-piracy efforts would suffer greatly if pirates are not able to be brought to trial.

“If we can’t do that we’ve lost a very significant link on handing the end stay for these pirates.  My guess is if Kenya says no, there’d better be another regional state or some kind of consortium put together to handle this or these folks are going to go free because of a lack of evidence or a lack of ability to handle them,” he says.

Patch says currently there’s no credible evidence linking piracy to terrorists in the region, adding the “prime motivation is money.”

Berube says many analysts propose the real solution to piracy would be a peaceful Somalia.  But he says that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.  

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid