Associated Press
The Greek cargo ship Centauri was hijacked by pirates off the Somali coast and released
Nov. 27 after more than two months in captivity.

US Pushes for Broader Reach in Fight Against Pirates

December 12, 2008 11:59 AM
by Christopher Coats
The U.S. is presenting the UN with a resolution to follow pirates beyond the shores, calling into question the effectiveness of earlier efforts to stem piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Taking the Fight on Land

Hoping to extend the international effort against the steep rise in high seas piracy that has made the Horn of Africa increasingly dangerous for commercial vessels, the United States has drafted a resolution that would allow them to follow suspects into Somali territory.

Circulated among UN Security Council members, the resolution would require prior authorization from the Somali government and appears to indicate that naval monitors would not be enough to deter future attacks.

Piracy has spiked dramatically this year, with over 100 vessels reporting attacks.

A number of high-value ships are still in the hands of pirates, including a Ukrainian vessel carrying 30 tanks and a Saudi oil tanker valued at over $100 million.

According to The Guardian, it is widely known that the pirates reside along Somalia's north-eastern coast, but disputes over international law and jurisdiction have made it impossible for law enforcement agencies to travel there.

The seizure of ships in the high traffic waters has impacted countries from across the world. Few of the countries appear to agree on the best and most legal way to stop them.

A solution to the pirate threat is further clouded by questions about what will happen to the Somali pirates should they be captured. Currently, Somalia lacks a functioning judicial system.

The resolution follows a year of efforts to curb piracy, including international military operations expanding into the Bay, a UN flotilla and a recent agreement with Kenya to hand over suspected pirates.

Frustrated with the failure to completely halt activity in the waters, some shipping companies have begun to explore alternative measures.

Pirates holding the aforementioned Saudi tanker have begun discussions with Michele Lynn Ballarin, an American business woman active in the reconstruction of Somalia, after official talks continued to break down.

Other companies have sought out the services of private security firms in lieu of international law enforcement agencies.

Opinion & Analysis: More needs to be done about pirates

Reacting to the resolution, The Harvard Crimson wrote that while it was a good start, in order to combat such crimes in the future, the international community must become more involved in the broader stability of the region.

“The developed world must act to address not only the security concerns in the region, but also–and perhaps more importantly–the root of the problem: Somalia itself.”

One arguably positive aspect of the increased attention being paid to the East African nation is a renewed spotlight on Somalia’s fragile domestic stability. On, author Diana West implored her readers to “Pay Attention to the Somalis.”

Background: Attention hits fever pitch

Anchored by ongoing standoffs between seized high-value vessels and international law enforcement and encompassing naval forces from Russia to India to the United States, the ongoing pirate narrative has invaded virtually every corner of the media landscape.

Despite the occasional lull in activity, the recent capture of a Ukrainian ship carrying a fleet of tanks and a Saudi oil tanker valued at $100 million have kept international audiences engrossed in the story.

Although sea piracy never fully disappeared—shipping lanes throughout Southeast Asia and around the Horn of Africa have been vulnerable for decades—the payload and brazenness of the latest hijackings have captured international curiosity in a way that few events still do. An undeniable spike in activity off the coast of Somalia over the last year has brought special attention to this area in particular. Just since October, pirates operating from Somali ports have attacked more than 30 vessels, taking 12 of them by force.

Public curiosity and press accessibility—in September, The New York Times conducted a phone interview with Somali pirates—have pushed media agencies and online personalities to explore every angle to the pirate drama, even when there is actually little to report.

As an example, an article published on Dec. 5 reported that Somali pirates had failed to successfully hijack a U.S. cruise ship in the Gulf of Aden.

Meanwhile, U.S. News & World Report looked to the ongoing battle between international forces and pirates for lessons on how best to deal with the persistent threat of al Qaeda. “In fact, historians and legal experts suggest, the centuries-old fight against piracy could go a long way toward improving the fight against terrorism,” wrote Alex Kingsbury.

Fox News took the pirate-terrorism link in a different direction in their article, “Pirates: The New Face of Terrorism?” In the article, the author suggests that “While we know of no specific ties to terrorism, one has to ask why these Somalian pirates have such well orchestrated plans.”

Reference: Pirate alerts


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