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Rise of Piracy and Other Maritime Insecurity in Somalia

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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-14-09 10:15 AM
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Rise of Piracy and Other Maritime Insecurity in Somalia
This is written by a former US diplomat with extensive experience in East Africa, based, as he says, on "the best open source reporting", eg Jane's Intelligence Review.

Piracy has been a problem in the waters off Somalia for at least ten years. Between 2003 and 2007, there were about fifteen successful or attempted pirate attacks off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden each year. In 2008, the number of attacks jumped to well over 100; different sources use different numbers based on differing interpretations of pirate attacks. At least forty of the attacks in 2008 involving about 800 crew members were successful. This dramatic increase attracted the attention of the international community. The seizure of a Ukrainian vessel transporting $30 million worth of T-72 Russian tanks, grenade launchers and ammunition and a Liberian-flagged tanker carrying $100 million worth of Saudi oil to the United States underscored the concern. The pirate attacks shifted from the Mogadishu area to the Gulf of Aden at the end of 2007. Estimates on the amount of ransom money collected by the pirates in 2008 range from $30 million to $120 million. This may not sound like a lot as the United States distributes bail out money, but it is huge sum for impoverished Somalia. In addition, piracy has caused insurance premiums for a single transit through the Gulf of Aden to rise from as low as $500 to as much as $20,000.
The pirate groups cut across Somali clan lines and tend to live along the coastline. The number of Somalis involved in piracy has been estimated as high as 1,500. The unit operating out of Kismayu in southern Somalia comprises pirates from the Hawiye, Darod and Bantu clans. One of the senior commanders is a Marehan while the Bantu are former fishermen. Pirates operating out of Harardheere north of Mogadishu are dominated by the Suleiman sub-sub clan. They use El Dere and Hobyo as supply bases and the inland towns of Galkayo and Garowe in Puntland as logistical and financial hubs. According to Janes, Pakistani and Sudanese nationals help plan the piracy operations out of Harardheere. There are regular contacts between the pirates in Kismayu and Harardheere. Darod groups have a base further up the Indian Ocean coast at Eyl and at the major Gulf of Aden port of Bosasso.
Although Somali pirates operate from a variety of bases, their methodology is similar. The attack boats are small wood or fiber-glass fishing skiffs of twenty to sixty feet outfitted with dual engines of up to 85 HP. They are often carried and launched by 'mother ships,' usually fishing trawlers or dhows that were commandeered or purchased by the pirates. They use GPS devices, satellite phones and some have acquired equipment that enables them to pick up Automatic Identification Signals (AIS) required by commercial vessels. Each skiff contains three to seven pirates. If the attack occurs in the Gulf of Aden, the skiffs overnight off the coast of Yemen and attack when morning arrives at speeds of up to 30 knots in groups of two or three. They often fire automatic weapons and RPGs at the vessel. Ships that stop are more likely to be captured. The pirates use grappling hooks and ladders to board.
Since the beginning of April, there has been an increase in attacks. Many of them have occurred hundreds of nautical miles from Somali shores. There was even an attempt on a bulk carrier some 900 nautical miles from the coast. There has been a cluster of attacks about 400 nautical miles southeast of Mogadishu. The most recent successful attacks occurred near the Seychelles Islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Somali pirates seized a yacht and then an oceanographic research cruiser near the island of Assumption. The latter reportedly is being taken to Harardheere on the Somali coast. Somali pirates captured a German container vessel about 400 miles off the southern Somali coast between Kenya and the Seychelles. A Yemeni tugboat, Taiwan fishing trawler, French yacht and British cargo ship have also fallen prey in recent days.

And an estimate of the amount of shipping in the region (though it's not clear if this is just Gulf of Aden traffic, or if it includes traffic heading south past Somalia too):

Thirty thousand ships a year, roughly 100 a day, 50 in each direction, transit the waters off the coast of Somalia. One convoy in each direction, each day, alternating between fast ships and slower ones, and each accompanied by four or five escort vessels, would do the job. There would then be only two targets a day in each area of coast for the pirates to find, instead of 100. When marauders approach a convoy, they could be warned off by the escorts or destroyed if they attack.
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