Pirates - "Pirates in Somalia documentary" - Part I

Group: The History Book Club

Pirates in Somalia - Introduction

Somalia is a country located in the Horn of Africa. The country is considered to be a home of world's best known contemporary pirates.

Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 a lack of central government control exists over most of the country. The internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government controls only a small part of the territory.

The pirates operate lucrative ship-hijacking operations to capture merchant ships off the coasts of Yeme…more

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message 1: by Bentley (last edited Jun 22, 2014 07:39AM)

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Pirate base and resource exploitation

The majority of the pirates are based in Puntland, one of the poorest areas of the country. They operate primarily in the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean, between Yemen and Somalia. Naval vessels from around the world (United Stated, United Kingdom, Russia, India, others), patrol the Somali coast to protect merchant vessels. Due to Somalia's proximity to the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal, nearly 16,000 ships travel off the coast every year.

The former fishermen realized the enormous economic return in piracy and soon it became a thriving industry. Somali fishermen with access to small-arms and portable rockets due to the civil war, started to make a living from attacking foreign fishing and cargo ships off their coast.

The highly corrupt land lords and militia leaders of the coastal regions struck a deal with the invading fishing boats to give them licenses to continue exploiting Somalia's marine resources. In return, the same militia leaders were rewarded generously for condemning the local population to unfair competition and poverty. The dismay of domestic fishermen and extreme exploitation led to an uprising from the younger populations.

The revolting locals took matters into their own hands and declared war on the invading foreign ships. Payments of million dollar ransoms, a vast supply of unemployed young men combined with a romanticized pirate culture and governmental chaos are the continuing problems which Somalia faces.

(Source for all of the above - Crisis Watch - Youtube)

message 2: by Bentley (last edited Jun 22, 2014 07:39AM)

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Piracy Summary

The piracy phenomenon started with the collapse of the Somali government in 1991 when land lords and militia forces gained control over the coastal regions of the country. The absence of a centralized authority led Somalia into a civil war. With chaos spreading fast across the country, the shores became vulnerable to foreign French, Spanish, Indian, Japanese, Korean, and other giant fishing ships to invade.

Somali coast is the longest in Africa with 330 km of very rich marine life. Foreign ships took advantage of the political situation in Somalia, as well as dumped toxic waste in the area. Reports from international news agencies indicate that European companies were dumping poisonous and toxic waste in Somali waters. Also according to studies by UNEP in 1997, European countries such as Italy and Switzerland were getting rid of their waste products by dispatching it in Somalia.

In Somali society, being a pirate is considered a prestigious profession. Among the richest people in Somalia that enjoy the best of luxury are pirates. The immense amount of ransoms they receive from Europeans and other states insures their security and that of their families as well.

Governmental chaos and statistics

Because Somalia is not a fully functioning state, the pirates can operate freely from their harbours in the north, mostly in the breakaway territory of Puntland. Although ships from over 25 countries patrol the area and maritime law equips naval vessels off the Horn of Africa with powers of arrest, bringing pirates to justice is frustrated by cost, restrictive rules of engagement and politics. Hence 90% of captured pirates are released quickly and without sanction. And the foreign patrols' effectiveness is declining as the pirates move ever farther offshore.

In 2010, pirates took 1,181 people hostage off the Somali coast. About half were released after the payment of ransoms, a few have died of abuse or neglect and around 760 are still held in captivity. Most of them remain on their own hijacked vessels, some of which are employed as mother-ships from which the pirates stage further raids. The problem has worsened sharply in recent years.

There were 219 attacks in 2010 compared with 35 in 2005. Ransoms paid last year climbed to $238 million, which makes an average of $5.4 million per ship, compared with $150,000 in 2005.

International reaction

United Nations have shown concerns that Somali pirates were becoming the masters of the Indian Ocean. The economic cost of piracy is estimated at $5 billion-7 billion per year. In October 2008, NATO, the European Union and the United States committed significant naval forces to patrol the main shipping routes. Thus began the international community involvement.

The Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor, a heavily patrolled safety zone, now runs for about 400 miles along the Yemeni side of the Gulf of Aden. Outlawing ransoms is neither feasible nor in the hostages interests. Stationing armed guards on vessels or training crews to use firearms could provoke a more brutal response from the pirates, creating more bloodshed in process.

(Source for all of the above - Crisis Watch - Youtube)

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Pirates in Somalia impact

The Somali pirates don't have any political agendas that they want to insert. The only benefit they reap are the ransoms they receive but, on the political sphere, they seem to be without a purpose. In general, the pirates' actions are considered a reaction to the exploitation of Somalia. Piracy is not only a threat to the security, economies, and stability of the different countries of the region.

Countries such as Yemen, who controls the southern entrance of the Red Sea, and Egypt, who controls the northern entrance via the Suez canal, are at the forefront of this dilemma. Arab countries could also suffer the majority of economic loss due to the oil transport. Since Arab oil coming from the Persian gulf must be transported to Europe and the United States via the Suez canal, any disturbance in existing routes poses a serious security and economic threat to the world.

Egypt sustained direct repercussions as a result of piracy, which endangered Egyptian vessels and impacted negatively on shipping traffic through the Suez Canal. The negative ramifications on Egypt's national security are also important. The whole situation requires swift actions on the part of Egypt in order to preserve national interests.

Military response

Cairo could move in cooperation with other countries or international organizations with which share similar worries over the security of the region, or it could act unilaterally if collective action proves impossible. Safeguarding shipping through the Red Sea and nearby areas is an Egyptian top priority. Piracy could lead to the diminishing of revenue gained by Egyptian coffers off the Suez Canal, which make up one of the largest foreign currency income sources for Egypt.

Revenues from the Suez Canal fell from $469.6 million in September to $467.5 million in October to $419.8 million in November. According to experts, revenues will dramatically decrease should the problem of piracy remain unresolved.

An international coalition of forces led by the United States, France, and other Western countries was formed to battle this crisis. The United Nations Security council has passed a legislation that allowed for military presence of Western countries in Somali waters. The fear of turning the Red Sea into an international water passage has sparked alarms in the neighboring countries.

It is widely thought that the United States and EU's presence in Somalia is primarily to internationalize the southern entrance to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The consequences of piracy are most apparent in Somalia itself. The country receives approximately $236.4 million in economic aid. This aid is necessary to provide food and basic provisions for millions of impoverished Somalis.

Solutions for key issues

Danger in Somali waters has forced the World Food Programme to intermittently suspend shipments, putting Somalia's food stock in serious danger. Without food and other basic necessities, it will be very difficult for Somalia to grow and build a viable economy. Acts of piracy spawned largely because of the economic hardship in Somalia. Somali economic growth is depending upon the successful control of piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

A strong Somali government backed by a reliable police force is probably one of the most powerful tools in combating piracy issues in Somalia. This will enable Somalia to enforce its maritime rights and begin to rebuild damaged industries such as fishing, among other commercial advances. As long as disastrous economic conditions persist, the vast rewards of piracy will remain in existence.

(Source for all of the above - Crisis Watch - Youtube)

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Here is the link to Part II -


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