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
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.