The targets of Somali pirates are taking countermeasures and the number of ship hijacking has dropped dramatically.
According the UK based “The Economist,” from the International Maritime Bureau, the number of attacks off the Horn of Africa dropped from 236 in 2011 to around 72 in 2012.
Now a private navy is giving the pirates cause for pause.
A company called Typhoon will use a mother ship to accompany convoys of merchant vessels. With over 60 armed men on board, the ship will deploy speed boats to cover the commercial ships. There is even talk of using small drones to check Somali “fishing vessels.”
When 10 Somali pirates were brought to trial earlier this year in Hamburg, many viewed it as promising a minor victory against lawlessness on the high seas. But the trial has turned into a pointless and expensive circus. The battle against piracy off the Horn of Africa won’t be won in German courtrooms.
The first 100 days of anything new are generally considered an observation period. After that comes the thumbs up or thumbs down.
This week marks the 100th day of the Somali piracy trial in Hamburg, a case of the Federal Republic of Germany versus 10 Somalis who hijacked the German freighter cargo ship MV Taipan in the Indian Ocean in April 2010, armed with AK-47s.
Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, sea piracy may be prosecuted in any country, but few Western countries have attempted it. The Hamburg court, though, has taken a self-confident approach to this trial that has drawn international attention, as if saying: We can be global, too.
The regional court in Hamburg has had 100 days to demonstrate the point of transporting defendants from a poverty-stricken, seemingly archaic, lawless country thousands of kilometers in order to put them on trial. But, in the end, there is no point.
Four judges, four lay judges, two prosecutors, 10 other court employees, 20 defense attorneys and three Somali language interpreters — along with numerous expert witnesses on subjects including conditions in war-torn Somalia, the estimation of age through carpal bone analysis, bullet holes and the Urdu language — have jointly managed to bring to light no more than what was known from the start — after all, the 10 defendants were caught red-handed by Dutch marines who stormed the ship.
he European Union naval force patrolling the Indian Ocean on Tuesday carried out its first air strikes against pirate targets on shore, with a pirate reporting that the raid destroyed speed boats, fuel depots and an arms store.
Bile Hussein, a pirate commander, said Tuesday the attack on Handulle village in the Mudug region of Somalia’s central coastline will cause a setback to pirate operations. The village lies about 18 kilometers (11 miles) north of Haradheere town, a key pirate lair. There were no reports of deaths in the attack.
Maritime aircraft and attack helicopters took part in the attacks early in the morning on the mainland, an EU spokesman said.
The EU is the main donor to the Somali transitional government. It is also trains Somali army troops, and is reinforcing the navies of five neighboring countries to enable them to counter piracy themselves. The long coastline of war-ravaged Somalia provides a perfect haven for pirate gangs preying on shipping off the East African coast.
If you’re a private security company patrolling for pirates in the waters off East Africa where do you store all your firepower when the nearby countries won’t let you store heavy weapons within their boundaries? Why you create a floating arsenal of course!
Creating arsenal ships is exactly what private security firms are up to in the waters off Somalia, the AP is reporting. The only problem is that there are zero safety standards for such vessels, something even the private security firms say is a problem. With up to twevle of these floating arsenals sitting off the African coast, the varying safety standards means that poorly guarded or improperly stored weapons on a boat could find their way into the wrong hands or worse; one of the boats may be a ripe target for the pirates they’re in place to guard against.
Per the AP:
Storing guns on boats offshore really took off as a business last year. Britain — where many of the operators are from — is investigating the legality of the practice, which has received little publicity outside of shipping industry circles.
Floating armories have become a viable business in the wake of increased security practices by the maritime industry, which has struggled for years to combat attacks by Somali pirates. But those in the industry say the standards vary widely.
Governments and industry leaders “need to urgently address standards for floating armories and get flag state approval,” said Nick Davis of the Maritime Guard Group “Everything has got to be secured correctly, recorded, bonded, the correct locks, and so on. It’s not just a case of find a room, put some weapons in it and everybody chill out.”
Some floating armories did not have proper storage for weapons, enough watchmen, or enough space for guards to sleep indoors, forcing them to sleep on deck, he said.
In the absence of applicable laws, he said, “companies are just being economical with the truth.”
Davis said his company operates two tugs as floating armories and carefully maintains log books for his company’s hundreds of weapons and records for each shot fired. He did not allow other companies to rent out space on his tugs because of regulatory problems, he said, but hopes to do so soon and has sent out advertisements.
“Ships have to use armed guards, yet none of the governments want to provide an ethical and accountable way of using firearms,” he said.
Somali pirates freed a British hostage Wednesday, nearly seven months after she was taken captive in a raid at a Kenyan beach resort in which her husband was killed.
Judith Tebbutt told British broadcaster ITN that she was “very relieved” and was looking forward to seeing her son, who, she said, had helped secure her release.
“I don’t know how he did it,” she said.
She said her captivity took a psychological toll but she endured.
“Seven months is a long time and under the circumstances with my husband passing away, it made it harder,” she told ITN.
Tebbutt, taken hostage last September, was flown out of Adado, Somalia, to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
“The priority now is to get her to a place of safety,” said a spokesman from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
A French court has jailed five Somali men for between four and eight years for hijacking a yacht and taking a French couple hostage.
The incident took place in the Gulf of Aden in September 2008.
A French navy team raided the vessel, Carre d’As, two weeks later, killing one captor and detaining the others.
A sixth man was acquitted. It is France’s first prosecution of suspected Somali pirates.
The prosecutors had asked for the men, now aged between 21 and 36, to be sent to jail for between six and 16 years.
They were charged with hijacking, kidnapping and armed robbery after seizing the boat and its crew.
They were accused of attacking the Carre d’As on 2 September 2008 and demanding a ransom of $2m (£1.3m; 1.5m euros) for the release of French couple Jean-Yves and Bernadette Delanne, both aged 60.
Two Somali pirates are expected to be sentenced to life in US prison on Monday, joining nine others who have just begun long sentences for their roles in hijacking attempts. What’s in store for them as they enter the alien, unforgiving world of the American jail system?
Federal prison is a frightening, perilous environment of intrigue, violent gangs, terrible food and severe isolation, even for the most hardened criminal.
For men from a faraway land with little or no English-language skills and no prior familiarity with American culture, it will be especially hard, say lawyers for the men, and experts in psychology and the criminal justice system.
Some American vessels hijacked by the Somalis in US prisons
Maersk Alabama, April 2009: Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse and three comrades attack the US-flagged container ship and take Capt Richard Phillips hostage on a lifeboat. Muse is arrested by the US Navy; the three others are killed by Navy snipers.
S/V Quest, 18 February 2011: Nineteen pirates hijack the yacht, taking four American sailors hostage. The four Americans and four pirates are killed in the ensuing standoff, and 15 pirates are taken to the US for prosecution.
USS Nicholas, March-April, 2010: Five men have been convicted of attacking a Navy ship that prosecutors said the pirates mistook for a merchant ship