As a result of the growing piracy threat, UNODC has proposed a number of measures to deter, arrest and prosecute pirates in the Horn of Africa to the United Nations Security Council in December 2008. The most immediate of these is to put forward international agreements allowing law enforcement agents from the Horn of Africa region to join warships as a 'ship riders' - as these are known - to circumvent legal impediments to arresting pirates on shared waters.UPDATE: StrategyPage reports USS San Antonio (LPD-17) is the flagship for CTF-151, the anti-pirate task force. Though tagged as a "hard luck" ship due to construction issues, the choice makes sense.
Traditionally used to combat drug trafficking and illegal fishing, shiprider agreements are designed to remove policing barriers in international maritime boundaries, and to stop smugglers and other criminals from taking advantage of shared territorial waters for illegal activities. The practice has been employed successfully in the Caribbean to fight drug traffickers.
"Ideally, suspects should be tried in the country where they came from, or in the country that owns the seized ship", says UNODC's Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa, "but the Somali criminal justice system has collapsed, and countries like Liberia, Panama and the Marshall Islands - where many of the ships are registered - do not want to deal with crimes committed thousands of miles away".
Shiprider agreements would make use of existing functional criminal justice systems in the region to be able to arrest and try pirates. "We must engage neighbouring States - where legal instruments deriving from current international agreements on piracy and transnational organized crime are in place and functioning - if pirates are to be brought to justice." Subject to a special agreement, a shiprider arrangement would allow a law enforcement officer from, from example, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania or Yemen, to join a warship off the Somali coast, arrest the pirate in the name of their country and have them sent to their national court for trial.
UPDATE2: An interview with a "pirate king" here:
"I have employees doing the business for me now. I am a financier. I get my money and I don't have to leave Eyl. I have not gone to sea to hijack in recent months.
"My group go to sea and I manage their finances. I buy speedboats and weapons, whatever they need.
"Usually, no disagreements come between us. Once, though, we disagreed. When we were holding two French nationals in Habo, some demanded to take them to Eyl while others disagreed.
"It's difficult to stay being a pirate but we have changed our previous strategies. We have transformed our operations in the Indian Ocean with new types of attacks, using modern equipment, including GPS, to show where warships are.
"At the moment we have a new, active young generation who want to take part in piracy. They mostly like money.
"If the UN gives approval to fight pirates on land, that will lead to the death of innocent Somalis because they cannot differentiate us from ordinary Somalis, as we dress alike.
"Piracy will not stop unless we get a government," said Dheere.