Who are Somali pirates?
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Somali pirates have been making headline almost every day that they have hijacked a new ship. According to a recent report, In 2010 , Somali pirates have hijacked more than 49 ships and seized a record 1,181 hostages. They were paid about 238 millions of dollars in ransom. Piracy has been a big problem in Somali waters for at least 10 years. Let us find out who are these modern-day pirates where and how they operate, and why they've turned from fishing to piracy.
do Somali Pirates Operate?
Despite the security threat, many ships continue to ply that route as the Suez is the quickest way from Asia to Europe and America. Taking advantage of a country without a stable government, the pirates attacked several vessels .
At any given time pirates are holding at least a dozen ships hostage including the occasional oil supertanker for which they can demand up to $25 million in ransom. Most of the hijacked vessels are kept by the well-armed pirate gangs at port Eyl
Pirates are using "mother ships" so they can launch attacks further out at sea. A speed boat consists of 5 to 10 pirates were sent to hijack the ship from these mother ships. Somali pirates don't wear eye patches ( like the pirates in the movie" Pirates of the Caribbean" ), and instead of swords they have RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). This RPG’s and small arms are used to intimidate the operator to slow down and allow boarding. Light ladders are brought along to climb aboard. Pirates then will try to take control of the vessel. They often attack at night.
Who are These Pirates?
Few years ago, Somalis were lived with the fishing and foreign aid. Since there was no proper Govt., and Civil war was going on, foreign vessels started illegal fishing and dumping toxic wastes to Somali waters. This seriously affected their livelihood. . European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne. Also due to dumping of toxic waste, several cases of respiratory infections, mouth ulcers, abdominal hemorrhages and unusual skin infections started affecting the people. Since there was no shore protection, Somali fishermen armed themselves to protect the waters and started demanding a compensation tax . Slowly they started hijacking other ships to make easy money . They claim that they are not pirates but coast guards.
The pirates consists of 3 types of people.
•Ex-fishermen, who are considered the brains of the operation because they know the sea
•Ex-militiamen, who are considered the muscle - having fought for various Somali clan warlords
•The technical experts, who are the computer geeks and know how to operate the hi-tech equipment needed to operate as a pirate - satellite phones, GPS and military hardware.
The three groups share the ever-increasing illicit profits - ransoms paid in cash by the shipping companies. Most of them are aged between 20 and 35 years
It is estimates that there are at least four pirate gangs and a total of 1,000 armed men. After seeing the profitability of piracy, since ransoms are usually paid, warlords began to facilitate pirate activities, splitting the profits with the pirates. Pirates even attack ships carrying humanitarian aid. In most of the hijackings, the bandits have not harmed their prisoners. The purpose of piracy is to get ransom money for release of the crew, ship, and cargo. Pirates' income from ransom has been estimated to be 2 million in 2008, about $58 million in 2009 and $238 million in 2010
Pirates say ransom money is paid in large denomination US dollar bills. It is delivered to them in burlap sacks ( strong jute bags ) which are either dropped from helicopters or cased in waterproof suitcases loaded onto tiny skiffs (small raw boats). Ransom money has also been delivered to pirates via parachute.
Successful pirates live well, they marry beautiful women, drive big cars, build big houses, and buy increasingly sophisticated weapons. Somali pirates have accountants, lend money to businessmen, and are basically running the economy of the autonomous region of Puntland.
A BBC report filed in September 2008 talks that Somali pirate town Eyl has become a tailor-made for pirates - and their hostages. Special restaurants have even been set up to prepare food for the crews of the hijacked ships. As the pirates want ransom payments, they try to look after their hostages.
They have made life more expensive for ordinary people because they "pump huge amounts of US dollars" into the local economy which results in fluctuations in the exchange rate
Their lifestyle also makes some unhappy.
"They promote the use of drugs - chewing khat (a stimulant ) which keeps one alert and smoking hashish - and alcohol,"
Why Doesn't Somalia's Government Act?
Somalia doesn't take action against these pirates, nor can they register complaints from ships that are attacked, since it has a barely functioning government. A few years ago, there was no government at all. The current Somali government would like to help but in reality, they're not even in complete control of the capital Mogadishu.
Any Hope of Stopping The Pirates?
In response to an upsurge of attacks in the Gulf of Aden in late 2008, international forces have been patrolling the area. It seemed to work in 2009, with hijackings down to around 41. However in 2010 , 49 hijackings took place.
Self-Protective Measures are insisted for the ships and the list includes covering the deck of the ship with razor wire, Fire hoses to pump sea water towards the pirates, install a distinctive pirate alarm etc. Other unofficial self-defense measures on merchant vessels include armed private security guards .
A Stable Somalia is the Long-Term Solution
government has not gone after pirates because pirate leaders currently have more
power than the government.
( Reference: BBC, About.com , Wikkipedia )