The last time I checked in on our Somali pirate friends, they were threatening to blow up the tank-laden ship they’ve been holding hostage (link). So, whats the news on that situation? Well, the pirates decided not to sink the ship after their demands apparently prompted the owners of the ship to enter into negotiations with the pirates. However, the ship is still in the posession of the pirates, who show no signs of wearing down.
However, their actions have certainly been noticed by the international community, and there will be quite a few new ships around Somalia and the Gulf of Aden in coming days…
India has sent a frigate to the region, to protect its significant interests in the region:
The ministry of defence in New Delhi said that the frigate, equipped with a helicopter carrying marine commandos, would safeguard India’s sea-borne trade as vessels move through the vital trade route.
A spokesman said the deployment was intedned to “instill confidence in our sea faring community as well as function as a deterrent for pirates”.
It said that a warship in the area would be “significant” as the Gulf of Aden was a major strategic “choke point” in the Indian Ocean region and provided access to the Suez Canal, through which the sizeable portion of India’s trade flows.
Over 90 per cent of India’s foreign trade by volume and 77 per cent by value is shipped through the region, largely through the Suez Canal.
But India was only the beginning. A major push to thwart Somali pirates is being led by farther-off states, notably the United States and Europe, with France playing a significant role. After the pirates began to attack French yachts (which led to me first noticing this story weeks ago), France went to the United Nations and successfully won “one U.N. Security Council resolution allowing foreign powers to enter Somali waters and another allowing nations to send warships and military aircraft free to use ‘the necessary (military) means’ to stop piracy” (source). Coming on the heels of the UN resolution, a flotilla of NATO ships is set to enter the region through the Suez Canal and monitor the region.
The NATO force will join the US ships already patrolling the region. The NATO force will be composed of six member states, including “destroyers from Italy and the United States, frigates from Germany, Greece, Turkey and Britain, and a German auxiliary vessel” (source).
“There will be a number of very competent and very effective military ships … to provide presence, deterrence and, where necessary and possible, to intervene to prevent acts of piracy and to escort ships,” [alliance spokesperson James] Appathurai said.
Details of which tasks each ship will take on, and the rules for how they will handle the pirates, are still being worked out.
Experts predict the Nato crews will find it difficult to distinguish between normal Somali fishing boats and pirate vessels on the prowl.
The NATO force does not yet have specific rules of engagement, although the article quotes Appathurai as saying that “They will have the rules of engagement that they need,” which likely indicates a relatively pro-active approach to stopping piracy in the region. The primary goal of the force will be to “escort cargo ships carrying United Nations food aid to Somalia,” which have long been targeted by the pirates.
As if thwarting piracy wasn’t a struggle enough, the incoming forces will also have to deal with the tense political situation in Somalia. There has been no real government since the 90s, as other regions are governed variously by either an Ethiopian puppet government, are under autonomous self-rule, or are controlled by the system of Islamist courts, which are turning out to be rather unwelcoming:
But the newly arriving warships will face the wrath of Somalia’s Islamic Courts, the party that governed Somalia until an Ethiopian incursion installed a transitional government in late 2006. That governing body, now operating largely underground, has declared war on the incoming vessels.
In any case, the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden are quaranteed to become important hotspots in the months and years to come. The pirates, through their hijacking of high-profile targets, have gauaranteed international attention for some time to come, and have forced many throughout the world to focus more on the tragically failed state of Somalia. As one article points out, these acts of piracy are far more than occasional “just-for-fun” news stories; there are serious ramifications:
“A large ship sunk in the approach to the Suez Canal would have a devastating impact on international trade,” Middleton said in a paper published by Chatham House, a London think tank.
Already some ransom piracy proceeds are believed to go to al-Shabab, a Somali militia that the U.S. accuses of harboring the terrorists who attacked U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
The existing US and NATO forces are to be joined by a third European Union force in December, according to another article, which was secured by a push from France. However, not everyone is as excited as France about pursuing the pirates:
British Conservatives in the European Parliament criticised a French push to deploy the EU force, saying it would draw on the same naval assets of NATO and was politically motivated to press a French drive for a stronger EU military role.
“The EU regularly turns a crisis into an opportunity to extend its own role,” their defence spokesman Geoffrey Van Orden said in the statement.
“This latest naval operation is another example of unnecessary duplication of effort,” he said, adding that a decision should have been taken to coordinate all naval operations under NATO authority.
Read Full Post »