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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Think tank says, "Somali pirates threaten world trade"

The British think tank Chatham House has issued a report on pirates as set out Pirates threaten world trade. Summary points:
  • Piracy off the coast of Somalia has more than doubled in 2008; so far over 60 ships have been attacked. Pirates are regularly demanding and receiving million-dollar ransom payments and are becoming more aggressive and assertive.
  • The international community must be aware of the danger that Somali pirates could become agents of international terrorist networks. Already money from ransoms is helping to pay for the war in Somalia, including funds to the US terror-listed Al-Shabaab
  • The high level of piracy is making aid deliveries to drought-stricken Somalia ever more difficult and costly. The World Food Programme has already been forced to temporarily suspend food deliveries. Canada is now escorting WFP deliveries but there are no plans in place to replace their escort when it finishes later this year.
  • The danger and cost of piracy (insurance premiums for the Gulf of Aden have increased tenfold) mean that shipping could be forced to avoid the Gulf of Aden/Suez Canal and divert around the Cape of Good Hope. This would add considerably to the costs of manufactured goods and oil from Asia and the Middle East. At a time of high inflationary pressures, this should be of grave concern.
  • Piracy could cause a major environmental disaster in the Gulf of Aden if a tanker is sunk or run aground or set on fire. The use of ever more powerful weaponry makes this increasingly likely.
  • There are a number of options for the international community but ignoring the problem is not one of them. It must ensure that WFP deliveries are protected and that gaps in supply do not occur.

You can get your very own pdf of the report here.

My initial reading is that the report's bottom line conclusion is that the best way to stop the piracy is to solve the problems of Somalia on the land.
Whatever the international community decides to do, it must not be at the expense of efforts to secure a political solution inside Somalia. The most powerful weapon against piracy will be peace and opportunity in Somalia, coupled with an effective and reliable police force and judiciary. Containing or ignoring Somalia and its problems is not an option that will end well. Piracy is a very real threat to seafarers, the shipping
industry, the environment, international trade and most of all Somalia and Somalis. There is no single solution, but this paper has highlighted some of the actions that may assist in reducing the threat.
That may be true, but it begs the question of who, exactly is willing to undertake that task - a question also asked here where my thought is that containment is a good strategy when no one wants to take on Somalia any more than has been done.

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