Sign in to follow this  

Brazen pirates take control of Somalia's waters

Recommended Posts


Brazen pirates take control of Somalia's waters



Ali Musa Abdi | Mogadishu, Somalia

October 13, 2005



Highly organised, well-armed and increasingly brazen pirates have turned the unpatrolled waters off the Somali coast into a maritime disaster zone and attack and seize merchant vessels seemingly at will.


Amid faltering efforts to restore a functioning central government to the mainland after 14 years of lawlesslness, Somalia's Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden sea lanes have been taken over by ransom-seeking, ocean-going warlords, officials say.


Somali pirates, mainly remnants of the Horn of Africa nation's former navy and seasoned fishermen-turned-hijackers, are now one of the world's biggest threats to commercial shipping, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).


The agency reports 22 violent attempts to seize vessels off the 3 700km coastline in the past seven months, not including the most recent incident on Wednesday in which a second United Nations-chartered food aid ship was taken.


And, they are extending their range, according to the IMB and the United States Office of Naval Intelligence which has issued a flurry of dire piracy warnings for the Somali coast since March.


"Heavily armed pirates are now attacking ships further away from the coast," the IMB said in its latest weekly piracy report released on Tuesday.


"Ships are advised to keep as far away as possible from the Somali coast."


Their motives appear to be purely profit centered although many claim to be enforcing the sovereignty of Somalia's territorial waters in the absence of a formal navy or coast guard.


"There are pirates who are flatly sea robbers, others claim to be protecting Somali waters from overfishing and dumping of toxic material," said Andrew Mwangura of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme in Mombasa, Kenya, home port to at least two recently seized vessels.


"Others are hired to hijack ships for revenge," he said.


"The whole issue of piracy is about money and control of certain portions of the sea."


Mwangura and other industry sources say the pirates have grown bolder and more successful because they have stationed accomplices in various East African ports to notify them of ship departures and expected times of passage through Somali waters.


While not always successful and occasionally beaten off by crews with the help of passing US warships, the hijackers have claimed numerous prizes, holding vessels for months until their demands are met or negotiated down.


A group of pirates based near the town of Haradere, about 300km north of Mogadishu, held a Mombasa-based ship transporting World Food Programme (WFP) aid for Somali tsunami victims for nearly three months before abandoning it in early October.


While the WFP denies paying any ransom, local residents say it is likely money changed hands during negotiations with the Somali owner of another ship commandered by the same pirates in September.


"The pirates have collected millions of dollars in ransom since [1991]," said Abdi Aden Mahad, a businessman in Bossaso, the main port in the northern Somali enclave of Puntland.


"It's the best income-generating business I've ever seen," he said.


"It's like winning a lottery."


At least three well-known former pirate chieftains who have made fortunes from ship hijackings live in the Puntland fishing village of Marreray, according to local residents.


"They are now married and have decent lives without any fear or asking for forgiveness," said Marreray villager Abdi Mohamed.


"They earned more than $100 000 each from piracy."


Attempts to restore maritime security have been limited and fraught with difficulty amid power struggles between unruly land-based militia in control of various fiefdoms and the sea-borne pirates


"The warlords are powerless, they cannot do anything about piracy," said Mire Hassan Ibrahim, a trader in Somalia's bullet-scarred capital of Mogadishu. "They have failed to pacify the land let alone the sea."


"These pirates are very rich and could kill or overthrow a warlord who tries to expand his control offshore," he said.


A tussle between pirates and warlords has kept three hijacked Taiwanese commercial fishing vessels in captivity for more than two months off the southeastern port of Kismayo, about 500km from Mogadishu.


The fishermen claim they had permission to work from the warlord who controls the region but the pirates -- a new faction who call themselves the National Volunteer Coast Guard -- refuse to recognise his authority, residents say. - Sapa-AFP


Source: WFP, Oct. 14, 2005

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this