News / Africa

US Admiral: Commercial Ships Need Armed Guards to Fight Pirates

Admiral Mark Fitzgerald during his VOA interview, 21 Apr 2010
Admiral Mark Fitzgerald during his VOA interview, 21 Apr 2010
Meredith Buel

U.S. Admiral Mark Fitzgerald says commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean should carry armed guards to help defend against Somali pirates.

"The area is enormous and we just do not have enough assets to cover every place in the Indian Ocean," said Fitzgerald, who commands U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Africa.

While trying to open a corridor through the Gulf of Aden, some of the pirates have been forced into the Indian Ocean as far away as the Seychelles.

"There has got to be security on these ships in my opinion," said Fitzgerald. "Those security detachments that are on some of the large commercial ships have been very effective.  It is up to the commercial industry to figure out how to deal with this.  But I do not think that we can give them a 100 percent guarantee that we can protect them, nor should we."

Somali pirates have stepped up hijacking attacks in recent months, making tens of millions of dollars in ransom by seizing ships, including oil tankers, despite the presence of dozens of foreign naval vessels. They have been particularly active in recent weeks, and now hold about 20 ships with hundreds of crew members.

The U.S. Navy says it has five to 10 ships, ranging from speed boats to frigates, involved in counter-piracy efforts off the coast of East Africa.

Fitzgerald says Somalis enriched by piracy are buying up properties in the Kenyan cities of Nairobi and Mombassa, as well as in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  He says the international community must organize a joint campaign to crack down on those who finance the pirates.

"We really need to go after, in my opinion, the money, the logistics, how are they being supported with ships, fuel, those kinds of things," he said. "And we really need the rule of law piece to be fixed so that when we do catch these pirates, we are able to bring them to justice."

The admiral says it is difficult to find countries willing to prosecute the pirates.

He says the U.S. State and Justice departments are working on a plan to prosecute pirates being held on board Navy ships.

The United States and international partners are helping to train African navies through what are called African Partnership Stations.  According to Admiral Fitzgerald, the program focuses on enforcing a country's laws in its own waters.  

"It is a lot cheaper and a lot more constructive to train the allies how to do the job and let them enforce their own territorial seas, their own economic exclusion zone, than for us to have to come down there in a shooting war," said Admiral Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald says it is unrealistic to expect a stable government in Somalia anytime soon, so there needs to be a stronger international effort to address the piracy problem.

The admiral cautions that naval patrols alone will not solve the dilemma because calmer waters are now allowing the pirates to operate thousands of kilometers off the African coast.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

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

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs