A few weeks ago the New York Times published an article on how Somalia’s Pirates Flourish in a Lawless Nation:
But one particular line of work — piracy — seems to be benefiting quite openly from all this lawlessness and desperation. This year, Somali officials say, pirate profits are on track to reach a record $50 million, all of it tax free.
“These guys are making a killing,” said Mohamud Muse Hirsi, the top Somali official in Boosaaso, who himself is widely suspected of working with the pirates, though he vigorously denies it.
More than 75 vessels have been attacked this year, far more than any other year in recent memory. About a dozen have been set upon in the past month alone, including a Ukrainian freighter packed with tanks, antiaircraft guns and other heavy weaponry, which was brazenly seized in September.
The pirates use fast-moving skiffs to pull alongside their prey and scamper on board with ladders or sometimes even rusty grappling hooks. Once on deck, they hold the crew at gunpoint until a ransom is paid, usually $1 million to $2 million. Negotiations for the Ukrainian freighter are still going on, and it is likely that because of all the publicity, the price for the ship could top $5 million.
In Somalia, it seems, crime does pay. Actually, it is one of the few industries that does.
“All you need is three guys and a little boat, and the next day you’re millionaires,” said Abdullahi Omar Qawden, a former captain in Somalia’s long-defunct navy.
People in Garoowe, a town south of Boosaaso, describe a certain high-rolling pirate swagger. Flush with cash, the pirates drive the biggest cars, run many of the town’s businesses — like hotels — and throw the best parties, residents say. Fatuma Abdul Kadir said she went to a pirate wedding in July that lasted two days, with nonstop dancing and goat meat, and a band flown in from neighboring Djibouti.
“It was wonderful,” said Ms. Fatuma, 21. “I’m now dating a pirate.”
This is too much for many Somali men to resist, and criminals from all across this bullet-pocked land are now flocking to Boosaaso and other notorious pirate dens along the craggy Somali shore. They have turned these waters into the most dangerous shipping lanes in the world.
I find this point of view peculiar:
Even if the naval ships manage to catch pirates in the act, it is not clear what they can do. In September, a Danish warship captured 10 men suspected of being pirates cruising around the Gulf of Aden with rocket-propelled grenades and a long ladder. But after holding the suspects for nearly a week, the Danes concluded that they did not have jurisdiction to prosecute, so they dumped the pirates on a beach, minus their guns.
Sea captains have grown soft. In the past, any ship from any nation would execute pirates.
It’s pretty clear that Somali “authorities” are in on the game:
“Believe me, a lot of our money has gone straight into the government’s pockets,” said Farah Ismail Eid, a pirate who was captured in nearby Berbera and sentenced to 15 years in jail. His pirate team, he said, typically divided up the loot this way: 20 percent for their bosses, 20 percent for future missions (to cover essentials like guns, fuel and cigarettes), 30 percent for the gunmen on the ship and 30 percent for government officials.
Not long after the New York Times piece ran, pirates seized a Saudi supertanker bearing more than $100 million worth of crude a few hundred miles off the Kenyan coast:
U.S. Navy officials said the hijacking was unprecedented for its distance from shore and the size of its target — a ship about the length of a U.S. aircraft carrier. The attack appears also to be the first significant disruption of crude shipments in the region by pirates.
Pirates off the Somalia coast have attacked 26 vessels and taken hostage 537 crew members in the three months ended Sept. 30, according to the International Maritime Bureau, a maritime-crimes watchdog. They have raked in an estimated $18 million to $30 million in ransom so far this year, according to a report last month by Chatham House, a London-based think tank — a figure that may be driving the upsurge in attacks.
Yeah, I suspect the $30 million in ransoms may be driving the upsurge in attacks.
The Indian Navy has responded, and its INS Tabar sank a pirate “mother ship” after it failed to stop for investigation and opened fire instead:
The Indian navy said the Tabar spotted the pirate vessel while patrolling 285 nautical miles (528km) south-west of Salalah in Oman on Tuesday evening.
The navy said the pirates on board were armed with guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers.
When it demanded the vessel stop for investigation, the pirate ship responded by threatening to “blow up the naval warship if it closed on her”, the statement said.
Pirates then fired on the Tabar, and the Indians say they retaliated and that there was an explosion on the pirate vessel, which sank.
“Fire broke out on the vessel and explosions were heard, possibly due to exploding ammunition that was stored in the vessel,” the Indian navy said.
Some of the pirates tried to escape on two speedboats. The Indian sailors gave chase but one boat was later found abandoned, while a second boat escaped.
INS Tabar has been patrolling the Gulf of Aden since 23 October, and has escorted 35 ships safely through the “pirate-infested waters”, the statement said.
Last week, helicopter-borne Indian marine commandos stopped pirates from boarding and hijacking an Indian merchant vessel.