Somalia Piracy Today Part II

Somalia Piracy Today Part II

However, the incidence of piracy or attempted piracy in both the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea declined markedly by the middle of the decade. From a total of more than half of all cases, in 2007 they accounted for well under a third. Some of this may be due to the tsunami disaster of Christmas 2004, which also affected the pirates and their boats.

But from the graph we also see something else interesting as we approach 2007: The curves for waters along the coast of Africa both in the west and east clearly point upwards. Today, it is easy to see this as a warning of what was to happen outside Somalia last autumn. However, the concerns in 2007 about this trend were more relevant to the waters off Nigeria, where extensive oil extraction is taking place and where piracy has long flourished. As recently as the spring of 2008, the Niger Delta and the waters outside several places were described as the most dangerous in the world when it comes to piracy.

The almost explosive increase in pirate attacks on ships off Somalia in the autumn of 2008 shows that the situation can quickly change with regard to which waters are most exposed to piracy. Piracy in new waters can suddenly come more into focus. There are indications that piracy cases outside Somalia are now rapidly declining. This may mean that the extensive patrol with naval vessels from a number of countries in the Gulf of Aden has yielded results. The Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen, where most of the attacks by Somali pirates took place towards the end of last year, is, like Southeast Asian waters, very important for shipping between Europe and Asia.

The importance of the Gulf of Aden for international shipping is an important reason why piracy outside Somalia was taken so seriously. However, even though Somali pirates carried out as many as 111 attacks on ships in 2008, it still does not bring the global number of piracy or attempted piracy nearly as high as in 2000 and 2003.

In the larger context, and especially over time, the figures so far for the piracy activities along Somalia’s long coast do not have a major impact. However, there are other features of it that are more remarkable and partly new. This applies to the form of piracy outside Somalia, a country located in Africa according to, both in terms of implementation and purpose.

4: New forms of piracy

The vast majority of attacks on Somali pirate ships have been carried out on the high seas , and sometimes very far off the coast of Somalia. The latter has always happened with the use of an auxiliary boat that brings with it the small fast fiberglass boats that are used during the actual hijacking attempts. These have taken place in full daylight and towards ships in motion.

All this breaks with the most common pattern of piracy in our time: The ships that are hit are in territorial waters, not infrequently in or near a harbor basin, they are at rest, and the pirates often come at night when it is dark. Violations of this pattern have also occurred in pirate attacks on vessels in other waters.

But virtually all hijacking attempts outside Somalia break with this common pattern. It’s new. Many of the ships that have been attacked there are also large ships. In addition, very many of the attacks have been carried out with the use of heavier weapons than usual, including Kalashnikov rifles and anti-tank weapons, not just knives and pistols, as is often the case.

In short, the Somali pirates’ hijacking attempts have often been carried out in a bold and challenging way. Therefore, it is not surprising that only 42 of the total of 111 attempts last year were successful. This results in a significantly lower percentage of successful attacks than for pirate attacks in other waters. But the new features of the piracy off Somalia are nonetheless worrying for shipping.

In addition, most cases of piracy in waters off Somalia represent something that, with few exceptions, is also new in terms of purpose and counting . Based on the way piracy of our time has so far behaved, we can roughly distinguish between four forms:

  • The pirates get on board a ship to steal valuables, both from the ship’s safe, cargo and crew, which they can easily take with them and disappear again,
  • they capture crews or passengers to demand ransom for them,
  • they take control of the ship in order to steal the entire cargo, such as oil, or
  • they simply take over the entire ship to sell or even use it.

Somalia Piracy 2