A look at the problem in "Piracy on an almost industrial scale"
Speaking to Defencemanagement.com before his departure, Rear Admiral Peter Hudson, then Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force operation Atalanta, said that while piracy has been reduced in the Gulf of Aden, piracy off the Somali coast was growing on an "almost industrial scale". Of the two areas that EU NAVFOR patrols, he describes the Gulf of Aden, through which 30,000 ships transit each year, as the most important.
A look at the "trends" in piracy off the Horn of Africa here
Increased use of firearms on all sides. The shoot-to-kill policy adopted by several navies has led to an increased number of direct fire exchanges. The use of armed personnel and military on fishing vessels has lead to an overall increase of aggression and violence.Taking the attacked vessel and crew immediately under direct fire during a piracy attack was in earlier years unheard of, but is now common. Likewise the the treatment of crews from countries, which have killed or arrested Somalis is declining.
I am not sure what this analysis is based on. The pirates have never
hesitated to fire at unarmed ships with both AK-47 and RPGs. Indeed, that's how they have managed to capture ships. Having ships return fire may represent an escalation in risk to the pirates, but hardly to the merchant ship crews (see here
, for examples of damage wrought by pirates). In fact, several incidents involving warships taking out pirates have begun with pirates shooting at the warships under the mistaken belief they were shooting at merchant ships (see here
EU to extend counter-piracy operations off Somalia until at least 2012 as reported here
The Council of the European Union agreed to extend the mandate for Operation Atalanta for another two years.
The council said it "notes with concern" the impact that piracy was having on regional economic and security issues.
Others assert that the EU effort is a "front" for allowing poaching of Somali fishing waters
However, critics of the operation suggest that its hidden mission is to protect European vessels accused by Somali seafarers and international organisations of another form of piracy: illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste, including radioactive material, in Somali waters.
One example of the EU’s protection of vessels fishing illegally in the waters of the Horn of Africa is the Spanish tuna fishing boat Alakrana.
In Oct 2009, Somali pirates seized the boat, arguing that it was fishing illegally in Somali waters.
Almost two months later, the Somali pirates released the boat for a ransom of some four million dollars after several attempts by the Spanish army to free the Alakrana had failed.
The Somali allegations that the Alakrana was illegally fishing in the Indian Ocean were never investigated.
I would suggest that the activists with point of view take more concern for the welfare for the hundreds of innocent merchant sailors being held captive by Somali pirate gangs before going too far down this line of thought.In fact, they might make inquiries about the fate of the English yachting couple, the Chandlers, being held by pirates for ransom
Claude Berube, writing for The Heritage Foundation, tells us why "Stopping Piracy Matters"
Piracy has some direct consequences to the shipping companies who ply the waters, to the sailors whose lives are at risk (some 17 ships and 357 sailors are currently being held for ransom), and to the local economies who are reliant on secure and stable maritime environments. But there are also indirect and longer term consequences. Namely if the U.S. is unwilling or unable to effectively deter piracy how would we respond to another failed or failed state who threaten the high seas? Or, more importantly, if other organizations or states fail to learn from what is happening off Somalia...
UPDATE: A look at the future from the ONIPiracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (Horn of Africa) report:
5. (U) Forecast for the Week of 17 Jun – 23 Jun 2010
(U) Weather is may still be conducive for pirate small boat operations in the Horn of Africa region but will continue to deteriorate due to the upcoming summer monsoon season. Overall pirate activity is expected to decrease during this time period. Weather conditions during the monsoon season will likely reduce the number of pirate attacks; however, pirates will continue to operate when and where weather conditions permit. Once it has become fully established over the Somali Basin and North Arabian Sea, monsoon conditions will persist throughout most of June, July and August. Winds up to 23-28 knots with gusts of 35 knots and sea states up to 20-24 feet are expected. Mariners should continue to maintain all counter-piracy measures when transiting the area. Mariners are strongly encouraged to contact UKMTO and all appropriate authorities when transiting the Gulf of Aden as well as make use of the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC). This week, ONI assesses the risk of pirate attacks is low in the Indian Ocean. Pirates will likely continue to operate in the Gulf of Aden where weather conditions are not as severe during the monsoon season. In addition, pirates may attempt to operate in the Southern Red Sea, off the coast of Oman and the Northern Arabian Sea until the monsoons moves into the area. Pirates may also attempt to operate near the Maldives and east of 075 longitude, which is less impacted by the monsoon season.
(U) In the above picture, green represents a reduced risk for small boat activity while red signifies areas with a high likelihood of small boat activity. The waters marked in yellow through red may represent an increased risk to vessels operating in the area and mariners are encouraged to avoid transiting these areas if possible. If necessary to transit these high-risk waters, mariners are warned to maintain a strict watch at all times.