Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why are there so many pirates and why are they all Somali?!?

Today, while scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I came across the above status update by a curious young woman (who happens to be a Jedi Knight from what I understand). Since I have some knowledge in the area I decided to write about it and assuage (Google it) any other curious minds.

Okay, so Somalia is a war-torn eastern African nation sitting on the vital international waterway called the Gulf of Aden. This area of Africa is normally referred to as the Horn of Africa, and the Gulf of Aden is vital because it provides access to Egypt's Suez Canal. If international shipping was not able to access the canal, ships transporting goods (oil) to Europe and the United States from Arab gulf states and Asia, would have to go all the way around the bottom of the African continent. Each trip would be thousands more miles and cost thousands more dollars. So we generally want to avoid having to do that.

Somalia has a vast coastline and therefore its people have become expert mariners (I hope you don't have to Google that one) over the centuries. Over the last century these Somali mariners have concentrated their expertise in the industry of fishing, but something changed in the early 1990's and its repercussions continue to this day. The latest manifestation of which occured today when news media reported that four Americans were murdered by Somali pirates.

After years of rebellion that began in the 1980's, in 1991 the Somalian government was effectively rendered obsolete by civil war. The country descended into anarchy, the navy was disbanded, and many naval officers found their skills useless. At the same time the Cold War, which lasted over 45 years and pitted the United States against the Soviet Union, also ended in 1991. This meant Somalia was now unable to patrol its coastal fishing territory at a time when the world's naval super powers were reducing the amount of vessels they each had patrolling the world's oceans, thus making much ocean-based commerce less secure. The combination of these two factors wreaked havoc on Somali fishermen.

Soon after the fall of Somalia's government, illegal fishing ships from all over the world began scooping up fish by the ton in what use to be internationally recognized as Somalia's exclusive economic zone. Somali fishermen were no match for the new intruders, but a new industry was to make way and thrive in the chaos - pirating. What began as an effort by experienced former Somali navy men and mariners to protect Somalia's fishing territory, and impose fines on the illegal intrusion that was devastating their economy, devolved into the violent, multi-million dollar tradecraft we see today. The Somali mariners soon realized the lucrative, however illegal, opportunity they had in front of them and they seized on it. Please keep in mind that most of the acts of piracy committed by Somalis have not ended in violence. In fact, marine insurance companies continually account for the risks of piracy when deciding their premiums, and have even opened backdoor channels in order to pay pirate ransoms. However, the trend is definitely moving in the direction of increased violence and death.

So this is where we are, and it will most likely continue until Somalia regains an effective government. That should be easy enough, hey it's Africa right? Alright folks, back to Carmelo.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.7

No comments:

Post a Comment