Somali Pirates…is the Chaos Returning?

Its back in the international news again…Somali Pirates are becoming more active.  It has been a few years since an attempted attack and even longer since a successful hijacking.  However, we have seen more activity; and the potential promise of activity; in this region over the past 4-5 weeks than the last 4 years.  People are asking me why this problem with Somali Pirates is continuing to plague the maritime industry.  “Didn’t we solve that problem with military and armed security years ago?” Some ask.  My response; “we really didn’t do anything to SOLVE the problem…the international community just worked to DEAL with the situation”.

Over the years I have written or have been interviewed by several different publications and journals regarding maritime security and specifically maritime piracy.  I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of panel discussions, give speeches and discuss this topic along with risk management.  Piracy has been around since the first mariners and explorers took to the seas.  The only changes are weapons, technology and some tactics, however some of the piracy tactics have remained constant throughout the ages.

Unfortunately, piracy incidents are continuing to increase in areas off the West Coast of Africa, specifically the Gulf of Guinea and in parts of Southeast Asia along with the Philippines and now the Somali operational region.  The underlying issues and motivation, along with some tactics are different in each region.  For instance, most of the attacks off Somalia – throughout the Indian Ocean – typically take place during daylight hours.  Attacks in the Straits of Malacca typically take place during darkness.  The level of violence also differs.  The terrorist organizations responsible for piracy off the coast of the Philippines tend to resort to killing hostages much quicker than other groups.

Shipping companies and logistics providers seemed to have an increased level of concern regarding the recent uptick in Somali piracy.  A number articles have made their way into the Western Media regarding the increase in Somali piracy.  Everyone is asking the same question…is this the beginning of an increase in violence and piracy in this region?  Should we be concerned?

The answer to the first question is most likely.  The answer to the second questions is yes!  Why should we be concerned?  The world community hasn’t solved the underlying problem that is causing piracy in this region.  Governments around the world have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the piracy problem off Somalia, with only a temporary mitigation.  The underlying problems in that country are numerous, no stable government, widespread corruption, no underlying economy, no real prospect for jobs or any type of economic growth, no military or law enforcement protection, rule by the strongest tribes/militia, no food or the prospects to grow or import food, along with numerous other issues.  So, until the underlying problems within the country of Somalia are addressed this problem is going to continue to ebb and flow for the foreseeable future.