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High seas crisis seen as a test of Obama

COMMENTARY | April 11, 2009

This survey of international press reports was compiled on Saturday, April 11th, at a moment when an American sea captain was being held by four Somali pirates on a small lifeboat in the Indian Ocean, with U.S. Navy ships standing by.

By Lauren Drablier

PARISSome in the international press question question whether the botched piracy attempt on an American-owned vessel was a political statement or whether the pirates were just looking to increase the sums they receive from ransom payments (over $100 million last year). (Click here for a Reuters account of the standoff.)

Kenya’s Saturday Nation calls it a “major test” for President Obama in Somali pirates not cowed by global solidarity:

“The botched hijack of a Danish-owned, US-operated cargo ship by Somali pirates on Wednesday makes a mockery of efforts by the US and the European Union which have deployed warships to patrol the troubled waters.

“Other countries such as Japan, Pakistan, India, Germany, France, China, Iran and South Korea have dispatched warships to fight piracy off the Somalia coast.

“His capture is a major test for US President Barack Obama whose government will be confronted with the tricky option of negotiating ransom with bandits-linked to terror groups or order military action.

“The attack shows that the patrols by warships have not been an effective deterrent measure in the war on piracy.

“The fact that they could muster the guts to capture American crew is particularly telling,”


Allafrica.com offers an introduction to the situation in Somalia: U.S. Pirate Hostage Drama Continues, Air Patrols Begin:


“As a hostage drama involving an American merchant ship's captain and a group of pirates continued into Friday, the European Union's anti-piracy force began regular air patrols off the Somali coast in a bid to curb a new wave of piracy in the region.

“In Washington DC, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, described the pirates as "nothing more than criminals" and said the FBI was working with the Navy to free Captain Phillips.

“‘One of the very first actions that was undertaken by our country in its very beginning was to go after pirates along the Barbary Coast.... It’s important that we come up with an international resolution of this,’ she said.

“‘The ocean area we’re referring to is three times the size of Texas... We’re talking about a very large expanse of water with a lot of naval traffic going through it... We also understand that the instability in Somalia is a contributing factor to those who take to the seas in order to board ships, hijack them, intimidate and threaten their crews, and then seek ransom.’”

Paul Reynolds of the BBC believes that navies should look back to 1841 and highlights the restrictions for fighting piracy under international law in Could 19th-Century plan stop piracy?:

“If the navies of the world need some advice on ways to stop piracy off Somalia, they could look to Lord Palmerston, British Foreign Secretary in 1841.

‘”Taking a wasps' nest... is more effective than catching the wasps one by one,’ he remarked.

“No such action against the ‘wasps' nests’ along the Somali coast is possible today, even though the UN Security Council has authorised the use of the "necessary means" to stop pirates on the high seas and hot pursuit into Somali territorial waters.

“However, the resolutions that made these actions permissible (1838 and 1846) also contain restrictions.

“Everything has to be done in accordance with ‘international law’ and this is interpreted as complying with the conditions of the International Law of the Sea Convention.

“This convention, in article 105, does permit the seizure of a pirate ship, but article 110 lays down that, in order to establish that a ship is indeed a pirate vessel, the warship - and it may only be a warship - has to send a boat to the suspected ship first and ask for its papers.

“Add to this legal restriction the relative lack of warships in the seas off Somalia - more than there were, but still insufficient - and the reluctance to tackle the pirates in their home bases, throw in the chaos in Somalia, where there is no effective government, and you have perfect conditions for piracy.

“Even if they are caught, they are simply handed over to Kenya whose legal system is not designed to deal with them.

“And the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia issued a damning report last December in which it castigated ship owners for paying ransom.

“‘Exorbitant ransom payments have fuelled the growth of [pirate] groups,’ it stated.”

Another article by the BBC questions whether there is a political point to the situation with the attack of an American ship in US crew seized by Somali pirates:

“Pirates typically hold the ships and crews until large ransoms are paid by the shipping companies…

“The huge increase in frequency of attacks has forced several navies to deploy warships in the Gulf of Aden.

“But the BBC's Adam Mynott says the pirates have responded in the past few weeks by switching the focus of their attacks further out into the Indian Ocean.

“The BBC's correspondent in the region, Peter Greste, says hostages from previous pirate attacks have been largely well-treated, but the capture of Americans may change the equation.

“Somalia is largely under the control of a group with links to al-Qaeda, our correspondent says, and they may choose to make a political point out of the situation.”

“Earlier this week pirates boarded a British-owned ship, the Malaspina Castle, in an area heavily patrolled by a European Union taskforce.

“The taskforce, consisting of six ships and two planes, is among almost a dozen anti-piracy patrols in the area.

“But pirates managed to seize 15 ships last month - a large increase on the two taken in January and February.

“More than 130 pirates attacks, including close to 50 successful hijackings, were reported in 2008, threatening one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.”

Singapore’s Straits Times highlights the increasing complexity of the attacks as the hijackers attack more boats, further offshore and in some cases refuse to negotiate in French yacht hostage killed:

“FRENCH special forces stormed a yacht taken over by Somali pirates, but one of the hostages and two pirates were killed in the operation, officials said.

“The operation was launched after talks to end the six-day old hostage drama broke down. The dead man was the owner of the yacht and father of a three-year -old child who had been among the five French hostages. The child and three other adults on the yacht, the Tanit, were all safe, officials said.

“'Today (Friday) with the threats becoming more and more specific, the pirates refusing the offers made to them and the Tanit heading towards the coast, a operation to free the hostages was decided upon,' said a spokesman for President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“French troops immobilised the yacht on Thursday by firing into the sails, said Mr Morin. Negotiators had done everything they could to reach an agreement with the pirates, he said. 'We even offered them a ransom.' French commandos had also offered to send one of their officers over as a hostage if the child and her mother were freed, but this too was refused by the pirates, said Mr Morin.”

The Times of India underscores the weakness of traditional military strength in Pirates put American naval might to test:

“The Indian Ocean standoff between an $800 million United States Navy destroyer and four pirates bobbing in a lifeboat showed the limits of the world’s most powerful military as it faces a booming pirate economy in a treacherous patch of international waters.

“Driven solely by economic gain, not politics or religion, the band of pirates who captured an American merchant ship’s captain on Wednesday are an unconventional foe for the US military. In recent years, they have shrewdly extorted millions of dollars from international shipping companies; to help negotiate the captain’s release, the navy turned for advice on Thursday to an FBI hostage rescue team, practiced in a patient approach.

“‘We are safe and we are not afraid of the Americans,’ one of the pirates, who was not identified by name, said via satellite phone, speaking on behalf of the men holding Capt Richard Phillips on the lifeboat.

“‘This is strictly for the money,’ said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College. ‘They are not taking the cargo, and they are not interested in killing people.’ He added, ‘It’s a business model that has proven very effective for them.’”

Another article in the Times of India, US seeks global help for anti-piracy task force, highlights the US’ emphasis on finding a solution to what has turned into an international crisis and discusses the role of the failed Somali state in the proliferation of piracy:

 “‘Piracy may be a centuries-old crime, but we are working to bring an appropriate 21st-century response,” she (Hillary Clinton) told reporters at the State Department press meet.

“Terming piracy as a serious matter, Clinton said these people are nothing more than criminals.

“‘We are looking for ways to increase the effectiveness of what we are doing, including the recruitment of additional partners, to be part of the surveillance work that is done,’ Clinton said in response to a question.

“‘It's important that we come up with an international resolution of this. And we will be consulting closely and widely to determine what else other countries are willing to do and what further steps the international community believes should be taken,’ Clinton said.

“At the same time, she acknowledged that the instability in Somalia is a contributing factor to those who take to the seas in order to board ships, hijack them, intimidate and threaten their crews and then seek ransom.”

China’s news agency, Xinhua, discusses the economic impacts and the rising cost of insurance in Kidnap insurance costs soar tenfold in Gulf of Aden on escalating piracy:

“This means shipowners could be paying 30,000 U.S. dollars premium for 3 million dollars of cover for one journey through this piracy hotspot. However, more are opting for cover to protect their employees as well as avoiding lengthy detours that threaten supply chains and increase petrol costs.

“‘The cost of insurance is simply rising in correlation with the risk of kidnap in piracy hotspots. Despite the presence of naval ships, the spate of piracy attacks over the last six months does not seem to be abating with increased civil unrest and pirates' easy access to rocket launchers and AK47s. As such we've seen enquiries for cover escalate as shipowners seek to protect their employees and businesses,’ said Ashley Leszczuk, an analyst from Aon's crisis management team.”

India’s Hindustan Times stresses the complexities affecting the increasing rate of piracy in Pirate taxi for hire: Egyptian fishermen change jobs:

“An Egyptian fishing vessel and its crew have hung up their nets to venture into the more lucrative business of carrying Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, a watchdog said in a statement.

“The ship was not hijacked but ‘was hired by a pirate gang against cash deriving from an earlier ransom payment,’ the statement said, adding that the pirates now work ‘together with the crew on their piracy expeditions.’

“Foreign navies have set up anti-piracy missions to patrol the Gulf of Aden which is one of the world's busiest and most strategic shipping routes on the planet, with some 120 merchant ships bottle in or out every day.

“Yet the time between the moment a ship knows it is being attacked and the boarding is generally less than 15 minutes and foreign navies stretched thin across a vast area often arrive too late.”

In Battle against piracy has become that much harder, Ireland’s Herald notes that better weather in the region and the fact that the pirates area covering more territory is making it increasingly difficult to stop them:

“But the navies have fallen victim to their own success. The effectiveness of the patrols in the Gulf of Aden seem to have caused the pirates to refocus their attentions on the western Indian Ocean. One other factor lies behind the recent successes of the pirates: the weather. Very bad at the beginning of the year, it has now improved enough for pirates to get alongside targets with ease.

“Now that hijackers are threatening an area of up to two million square miles, they are much harder to locate.

“European, US and other navies are still overwhelmingly concentrated off Somalia's northern shore, hours or even days journey away from the recent attacks. Although the pickings may be slimmer and the sea more dangerous in the ocean the pirates have found an easier place to work and the western Indian Ocean may soon be as notorious as the Gulf of Aden.

“Attacks in the ocean mean ships going nowhere near the Gulf of Aden are under threat. Even the Seychelles is seeing ships seized in its waters, which could have a devastating impact on its tourism industry. Ships will need to maintain full speed and anti-piracy watches for much longer and over greater distances, adding considerable costs.

“America has been reminded that Somali piracy is not just a threat to its interests in the free movement of trade but that American citizens can also fall victim.”

Somali piracy
Posted by rmichem
04/21/2009, 08:32 AM

These KIDS, that are pirate, are just gang bangers with a boat. It not some international plot against the world.

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