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

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs