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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More