Despite the international naval presence off the coast of
Somalia, full protection against pirates cannot be given to all the tankers and
cargo ships sailing in the Gulf of Aden. However, there's an alternative being
offered that does not involved the use of warships. A company called
Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions (APMSS) uses non-lethal methods to
prevent pirate attacks.
Nick Davis, chief executive of the
firm, spoke from London to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about why piracy has grown to be a
serious problem in the Gulf of Aden.
because of the amount of ships that are…transiting the area. Obviously, it is a
pinch point to the Suez Canal. So, there's an average of between…50 and 70
ships a day using the canal. Then you have those at anchorage. And with the
busy Arabian Peninsula, you get them from all directions. So, incredibly busy area…certainly
a lucrative one, as the pirates can see," he says.
All of the APMSS methods are
non-lethal. Davis says, "We don't carry weapons at all. We use acoustic
devices, which are basically long-distance, very directional, loud hailing
systems. And these emit…150 decibels over a distance of about a nautical mile….
And to give you an idea of…the human pain threshold for sound is 121 decibels.
So, it's pretty excruciating when you get within a short distance of this
equipment, firing warning tones and messages at you."
So far, he says that APMSS
has been 100 percent successful and gives a recent example. "We ourselves had
an encounter with pirates last Thursday in the Gulf of Aden, where our teams
managed to…thwart and repel an attack by pirates that did come quite close to
the vessel. But once we activated the evasive maneuvers and increased the speed
of the ship and had all the fire hoses going and used the magnetic audio
device, the acoustic device that we had on board, then the pirates just
turned…and went for a vessel that was unarmed further south behind us," he
As the piracy problem
escalated in the Gulf of Aden, ship owners faced the prospect of paying
millions of dollars extra in insurance premiums. But says the cost of APMSS is
much, much cheaper. "The cost of our service is $20,000 and that's a fairly
small price to pay to have an effective security solution on board," he says.
Analysts have said that
international naval vessels are too few in number to provide full protection
for all the ships sailing in the Gulf of Aden. "They're there with great big
warships manned with between 300 and 700 people on board them. So, we're
effectively a three-man team with the necessary security equipment and
experience to repel attacks. And our teams are embarked on these ships…. And
they're on board for 48 hours and then they get off again," he says.
However, Davis says that no
matter how much security is provided to ships, the solution to the Somali
piracy problems lies in a political solution to the crisis in the country,
which includes "infrastructure regeneration to the Somali people. Where they
have no government, they have no ability to control their waters."
He adds that poverty is a
driving force behind the piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden. "You know, these
people (pirates) live in mud huts on the beach. So, they're not really aware of
what's going on in the world. All they see is these ships that come in, these
big fish factory ships that have sucked up all the tuna so that they can't
catch a single fish anymore. And these nice ships, moving cargo around the
world that pay Egypt for the use of the canal…pay them nothing at all. And yet
it's destroyed their coastal development and abilities to earn money," he says.
Davis adds, "They're not out to be violent
and killing crews…. They need money. They're desperate for money and the money
is shared within the communities. Yes, there are a couple of kingpin warlords
that are controlling it all, but they are distributing the wealth along the
coastline to the different villages and groups."