The utilisation of armed guards aboard cargo ships and an international naval armada that carries out onshore raids appear to have won the war on piracy in the Horn of Africa.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
In 2009, Somali pirates hijacked 46 ships, and 47 ships were hijacked in 2010. In 2011, 25 ships were hijacked, while in 2012, only five ships have been hijacked, according to the European Union Naval Force.
The U.N. says 1,045 suspected or convicted pirates are being held in 21 countries, including the U.S., Italy, France, the Netherlands, Yemen, India, Kenya, Seychelles and Somalia.
Despite the marked and consistent decrease in piracy off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden - one of the world's busiest routes with about 20,000 ships cruising its waters annually, experts say it is too early to declare victory.
Pirates still hold seven ships and 177 crew members, according to the EU Naval Force.
Nonetheless, eyewitnesses report that the shorelines of Somalia are scanty with the number of luxury cars having diminished significantly. Stores and brothels that once teemed with prostitutes are now empty. And would-be-pirates have now resorted to playing cards or catching lobsters as a pastime.
Pirate haven towns of Galkayo and Hobyo, where sea robbers once owned large villas and paraded themselves with armed forces, now has a different image. The villas are empty, and some pirates avoid public appearance in order to evade their creditors. Prostitutes complain of pirates now seeking their services on [LINK=#]credit[/LINK].
Analysts say, during the piracy boom, the buccaneers could count on creditors to front [LINK=#]money[/LINK] to buy skiffs, weapons, fuel and food for their operations. Now financiers are more reluctant. According to Mohamed Abdalla Aden, a former pirate, ransoms are getting smaller and attacks are less likely to succeed.
The perceived victory follows a strategic approach to maritime security by international military efforts including the European, American, Chinese, Indian and Russian in the Horn of Africa.
A joint international naval force operation was born following a December 2008 UN Security Council Resolution 1851, authorizing the use of armed forces onshore to defeat piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
But the biggest operation was started after an expanded mandate in May, 2012, when the EU Naval Force destroyed pirate weapons, equipment and fuel on land. Japanese aircraft flew over the shoreline to relay pirate activity to nearby warships.
Merchant ships have also bolstered their own defences with armed guards, barbed wire, water cannons and safe rooms, and increased their communications with patrolling military forces.
A June report from the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea said armed guards have forced pirates to "abort attacks earlier and at greater ranges from targeted vessels."
"We have witnessed a significant drop in attacks in recent months. The stats speak for themselves. No vessel with armed guards has ever been hijacked, noted Cyrus Moody of the International Maritime Bureau," Lt. Cmdr. Jacqueline Sherriff, a spokeswoman for the European Union Naval Force is quoted saying by [I]AP[/I] news.
Locals say piracy began around 2005 as a way to keep international vessels from plundering fish stocks off Somalia, but ransoms grew and criminal networks planned more sophisticated operations, launching attacks on freighters and yachts from mother ships hundreds of miles offshore.
Lacking a central government for over two decades, piracy boomed in the African nation and there was a rise in illegal drugs use, as well as AIDS.
But things seem to be changing. Piracy is believed to be on the decline, extreme Islamist groups have been forced out of major towns and villages, and a new era under a newly elected president has begun.