Good Company

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Arab News editorial on the danger of rewarding piracy

From Arab News, an editorial condemning payment of ransom to pirates - Editorial: Rewarding Piracy:
There is an international convention that kidnappers are never rewarded, certainly not publicly. It is known that some governments sometimes do deals with kidnappers when their citizens are seized in some far-off lawless land, but it is usually done through a third party and always denied. Even if the governments are not involved and if a company or mediators make the payment, they never say anything about it or confirm it. Such silence is vital. Otherwise the message will go out that piracy pays. But for some inexplicable reason, Denmark has ignored this extremely important convention. It is bound to encourage piracy and kidnapping. Further, Danish vessels sailing though the word’s piracy hotspots are going to become top targets. The pirates now know the ransoms will be paid if Danes are taken.
That is not something Saudi Arabia can view with disinterest. The Somali coast may be a long way from Denmark where the only maritime danger come from the weather, but for vessels sailing through the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden to and from Saudi ports in the Red Sea, it is a major issue. They are at high risk.

It is difficult to see things getting better in the foreseeable future. Although far from the whole picture, piracy certainly takes place in areas of political unrest — and there is no sign the situation in Somalia improving soon. That is worrying enough for ships putting in at Saudi ports, but if it spills over into Eritrea, as it may, and results in instability there then all of the lower Red Sea, relatively free of problems at present, could be the next major theater of piracy. That would be alarming. It cannot be ruled out: Eritrea and Ethiopia are busy conducting a proxy war in Somalia and the US is now openly hostile to Eritrea. It has just announced that it plans to add it to its list of states that sponsor terrorism.

Into these murky waters, Danish officialdom has wandered with its eyes tightly shut, making matters infinitely worse with the announcement of ransoms paid.
Or, as I have said before (and not too originally), "As in most things. you will get more of what you are willing to pay for." Pay pirates ransom, get more pirates. And the Danes are, by far, not the first to pay such ransoms to the Somali pirates, various merchant ship owners from the area and international fishing fleets from Korea and Taiwan have been paying off for years.

In the case of the Barbary Pirates before 1815, black mail was paid to keep the pirates at bay, but it wasn't until the U.S. refused to pay and took the fight to the pirates that those pirates finally were brought to heel, see here. Somalia is wrapped up in a lot of trouble and taking on these tribal pirates may not be at the top of it agenda, however, the UN could authorize action against the pirates in Somali waters if the recognized Somali government would agree. In the interim, convoys,escorts and staying as far off the Somali coast as practicable is recommended.

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