It is now official. Pirates, like terrorists, can run but they cannot hide. Not only along the coast of Somalia, which is currently the world's most dangerous waters for pirate activities, but also along areas in Southeast Asia such as the Straits of Malacca that are traditional havens for pirates.Not only Kenya benefits, but so do those other African states dependent on the port of Mombassa (see here).
The United States does not anymore see the difference between pirates and terrorists, and with good reason. A study carried out by the Piracy Reporting Centre says that freighters carrying payloads of fuel could be hijacked and used in terror operations similar to the 11 September attacks on America. There is real fear that terrorists could, for example, use a ship transporting liquefied natural gas as a weapon.
In any case, action by the US Navy will benefit Kenya because of the dangers posed by pirates to the country's tourism and maritime trade. The shores off the East African coast are important sea-lanes for cargo ships and luxury cruise liners. And many of the cargo ships are oil supertankers and attacks on them could trigger environmental disasters through crude oil spillage.
The modus operandi of the pirates makes such possibilities real. Pirates in Somali waters attack with heavy firearms everything that floats, from fishing vessels and yachts to bulk carriers, general cargo ships and tankers. Their aim is to steal valuables from the ship, or hold the crew for ransom. IMB says it has received reports of Somali pirates armed with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades, firing indiscriminately in attempts to force such vessels to stop.
"The lack of any stable or coherent government in Somalia is contributing to this lawlessness in its waters. Local warlords are interested in making money above all else, and hijacking commercial vessels has proven to be an expedient method of doing so," notes Captain Pottengal Mukundan, director of IMB.
The good news is that all pirates are international outlaws triable by any and every state. Any state may seize a pirate ship or aircraft, arrest the persons, seize the property on board and try the persons or hand them over to another state.