Pirates Strike Again

In the past weeks, the counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia appeared to be finally paying off. In well coordinated operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean several pirate gangs were disrupted and their mother-ships destroyed by international naval forces. It seems that the more aggressive counter-piracy strategy aims at preventing the pirates from reaching the high sea and to stop them before they can stage attacks on merchant and fishing vessels. On 22 March, EU NAVFOR thus triumphed that “Five PAGs swept aside by EU NAVFOR warship TROMP”[1][2].

Only one day later, however, reports emerged saying that pirates have struck again: a Bermuda flagged cargo ship has been hijacked 120 kilometres off the coast of Oman[3], while on the same day a Turkish-owned ship has been captured 1100 miles off the coast of Somalia – closer to India than to the African continent[4]. According to an official quoted by the BBC, ‘this marks an increase in the pirates range’, a tendency that had already begun in 2009. Reportedly, both hijackings took place outside the are that is patrolled by naval forces from the EU, NATO the US and other nations[5]. Also at the beginning of March 2010, a Norwegian oil tanker was hijacked near Madagascar[6]. These incidents clearly show that Somali pirates are far from being defeated and continue to challenge the international community.

Meanwhile, the government of Puntland has rejected the claims made by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, which had reported that high ranking officials, including President Farole, receive financial pay offs from piracy. In an article posted by Garowe Online, a Somali news agency and (unofficial) mouthpiece of the current government, Farole accused the Monitoring Group of being “politically motivated” and claimed that “Puntland has actively fought against pirates and we have 264 pirates or suspected pirates currently in jail”[7]. Whether one wants to believe these statements or not, it becomes obvious that piracy is in fact a contested issue between Somali regional states and the international community.

[1] Five PAGs swept aside by EU NAVFOR warship TROMP, EU NAVFOR, 22.03.2010, available at http://www.eunavfor.eu/2010/03/five-pags-swept-aside-by-eu-navfor-warship-tromp/.

[2] Pirate Action Group (PAG)

[3] Bermuda Flagged Cargo Ship Hijacked, EU NAVFOR, 23.03.2010, available at http://www.eunavfor.eu/2010/03/bermuda-flagged-cargo-ship-hijacked-in-gulf-of-aden/

[4] Somali Pirates move towards India, BBC, 23.03.2010, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8583027.stm

[5] EU Naval Force: Somali pirates hijack 2 ships, AP, 23.03.2010, available at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100323/ap_on_re_af/piracy/print

[6] Pirates Hijack Norwegian tanker, BBC 05.03.2010, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8552887.stm

[7] Somalia: Puntland’s leader says that UN report is ‘politically motivated’, Garowe Online, 22.03.2010, available at http://www.garoweonline.com/artman2/publish/Somalia_27/Somalia_Puntland_s_leader_says_UN_report_is_politically_motivated.shtml