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Somali pirates a threat to SA: expert
Daily News
Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It was only a matter of time before Somali-based pirates and al-Qaeda made their way to South Africa, delegates at a maritime conference in Durban were told.

Herman van Niekerk, operations director of Maritime Risk Solutions, a private maritime security company involved in anti-piracy operations, said this yesterday at a Maritime Counter-Piracy Offensive Masterclass.

The conference was attended by anti-piracy experts, including delegates from Angola, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and Denmark.

“No one knows how long it will take, but it is going to happen.”

The masterclass, which aims to come up with anti-piracy solutions to send to the International Maritime Organisation, was told by counter-terrorism specialist, Dr Denise Bjorkman, that the money generated from piracy was used to fund terrorism and that the terrorism link was evolving.

“Al-Qaeda could piggy back on piracy activity and adopt piracy tactics to take a ship and sink it,” she said, adding that while al-Qaeda threatened an economic blockade off the Gulf of Aden, they lacked the capacity for now.

Somali piracy was probably the largest maritime threat since World War II, she said.

Van Niekerk said al-Qaeda was moving down the east coast of Africa. He suspected they would hide in Madagascar and get into Mozambique by befriending opposition party Renamo, unhappy with the ruling Frelimo.

“And they are then on our doorstep and the next thing is Kosi Bay,” he said.

Van Niekerk said the Somali pirates and al-Qaeda were “birds of a feather” and were connected at leadership, rather than operational level.

“They have cannon fodder,” he said.

Giving an insight into piracy countermeasures, Van Niekerk said one method of fortifying ships was to ring ships with razor wire.

“But you can’t come into Durban port with it on.”

Retired SA Navy Captain Johan Potgieter, a senior researcher in conflict management and peace-building division at the Institute For Security Studies, said while piracy was decreasing in East Africa, there was a “drastic” increase in West Africa.

He said in West Africa, instead of hijacking tankers and ransoming the crew, pirates hijacked tankers and stole the oil and let the tankers go. They also hijacked fishing trawlers and sold off the fish.

Potgieter said countries needed to share information and make brave decisions to protect what was theirs.

He believed South Africa needed more maritime aircraft as well as shore-based over-the-horizon maritime radar with a range of 250 nautical miles.


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