As with other piracy experts, Chalk said the lawlessness off Somalia’s coast was a symptom of its anarchy on land. The absence of authorities gives pirates the ability to hijack ships and take them to ports where no police will try to free them. Also, pirate payoffs give locals a stake in helping the attacks continue. Short of invading the coastal towns that serve as pirate havens, experts have said, there is no way to strike at more than the symptoms of piracy.Containment is sometimes the best you can hope...
Chalk also echoed other experts with his view that the U.S. and European naval patrols off Somalia could never stop all the attacks over hundreds of square miles, nor even serve as a deterrent for pirates who have proven to be wily, inventive operators. As such, the European Union’s new anti-piracy patrol, with four ships, won’t have much of an effect, Chalk said.
He also cautioned that pirates’ recent successes could presage new maritime terrorist attacks. There’s almost no hard evidence linking Somali pirates with Islamic terrorists, Chalk said, but terror groups could use the lessons from pirate attacks for future operations. Terrorists could also become regular third-party buyers of weapons and other goods seized by pirates.
Cruise ships and civilian ferries —“the softest of the soft targets” — are at particular risk for small-boat suicide attacks, Chalk said. Most governments treat ferries more as mass transit than as commercial vessels, he said, and the way such ships are built makes them especially susceptible to catastrophic attacks.
UPDATE: Rand press release here:
A more broad-based approach might start with a boost to the coastal monitoring and interdiction capabilities of states in the vicinity of the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Enhanced surveillance assets, training and technical support for local navies, coast guards or other agencies would be particularly helpful.
Second, public-private partnerships could expand the use of communication and defensive technologies like the satellite tracking devices recommended by the International Maritime Bureau and non-lethal electrical perimeter fences designed to discourage unauthorized boarding.
Third, financial incentives such as lower insurance premiums should be made to encourage the international maritime industry to adhere to basic security protocols -- avoiding dangerous routes, maintaining constant anti-piracy watches, keeping in close contact with nearby vessels.
Finally, and admittedly most vexing, greater effort should be devoted to Somalia itself. Piracy off the Horn of Africa is essentially an extension of the land-based violence, corruption and lawlessness that have plagued this war-torn country since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991.
Until this void in regional governance is filled, armed maritime crime will continue to proliferate around the Horn of Africa, threatening shipping and commerce in a key maritime corridor connecting Europe and Asia.