When Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) embarked on his much touted "pirate tour" of Puntland in April 2011, he first stopped over in Kenya to meet with government officials. The Kenyans' reputations must have preceded them, because Senator Kirk knew where to go for his made up numbers: right to Wetangula, who informed him that that 30% of ransom money (more than $50 million, apparently) was "funneled to the East African Al Qaeda/Al Shabaab Islamic terrorist groups." Read full response HERE.
We live in an era of complex, integrated, and on-demand global supply chains. People in countries around the world depend on secure and reliable shipping lanes for their medicine, their food, their energy, and consumer goods. By preying on commercial ships in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, piracy off the Horn of Africa threatens more than just individual ships. Piracy threatens the life blood of the global economy, and therefore global security and stability,says Assistant Secretary, Andrew J Shapiro, US Dept of State.
Piracy is an issue in which the private sector, and the maritime industry in particular, are on the front lines. Commercial shipping vessels provide a constant stream of targets for Somali pirates. Over the years, thousands of crew members have been taken hostage and many in the maritime industry have lost their lives as a result of piracy. I have heard directly from the captains and crews of commercial ships about the harrowing situations they encounter as they transport the goods and merchandise that make the global economy function.
The challenge posed by piracy off the coast of Somalia is immense and represents a major threat to regional security and the global economy. As international action has been taken to address the challenge, the pirates have adapted. Flush from the money made from ransom payments, pirate operations have become more sophisticated. For instance, the use of so-called “mother-ships” has expanded greatly. Mother-ships are themselves pirated ships with hostage crews on board, making attacking or liberating these ships a significant challenge. Mother-ships launch and re-supply groups of pirates who use smaller, faster boats for attacks. They can carry dozens of pirates and tow many skiffs for multiple simultaneous attacks. This has made pirates more effective at operating in seasonal monsoons that previously restricted their activities. This has also extended the pirates’ reach far beyond the Somali Basin. Somali pirates now operate in a total sea space of approximately 2.5 million square nautical miles. To put that in context that’s roughly the size of the continental United States.
Piracy is a threat that this Administration has been working hard to address. In response, we have pursued a multilateral and multi-dimensional approach that focuses on security, deterrence, diplomacy, and prevention. Read Assistant Secretary Andrew J Shapiro full remarks HERE.
U.S. shipping interests, scolded Tuesday by a State Department official for not doing enough to fight Somali pirates, flashed back that they need more Navy protection and must pay ransom demands or nobody will man ships.
At a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum on the surge in piracy off the Somali coast where 30,000 ships a year pass, the former head of the Pentagon’s Piracy Task Force 151 also chided the top State anti-piracy official for not knowing that cruise ships commonly pass through, comments Washington Examiner.
Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, said cruise ships don’t steer near the open waters off Africa’s coast because of the pirate threat. “For the most part, they are not transiting through high-risk areas,” he said, adding that none have been targeted by pirates. But retired Rear Adm. Terence McKnight, the former Task Force 151 boss, said the Queen Mary and many others sail the dangerous waters. “There have been a lot of cruise lines through there,” he said.
McKnight, concerned about proposed Navy budget cuts, also warned against reducing American and international warships patrolling the pirate basin. Without the ships, he said, “pirates will become more aggressive.”
Shapiro was also challenged over his demands that the industry stop paying ransoms and do more to protect ships, including hiring armed security. Mark Martecchini, managing director of Stolt Tankers, said if crews didn’t believe that owners would pay ransoms, they wouldn’t sign up for trips. “I think they would think twice before going,” he said. Read more.
Although some progress has been made in suppressing Somali maritime piracy, the fight continues -- mostly because this lucrative crime gives the pirates the financial ability to adopt more sophisticated technology to terrorize maritime vessels - AllAfrica.
When Somali pirates successfully hijack a commercial vessel, the average ransom is now at $4 million and has reached as much as $12 million, according to Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Ransoms paid in 2011 totaled $135 million, Shapiro said at a March 13 event sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Moreover, criminal investors interested in the ransom payoffs have added to the financial strength of the Somali piracy enterprise.
"The United States has a long tradition of opposing the payment of ransom," Shapiro said, "and we have worked diligently to discourage or minimize ransoms."
Nonetheless, Somali pirate operations have become flush from the money made from ransom payments and are more sophisticated, Shapiro said. As a result, Somali pirates now operate in a total sea space of approximately 2.5 million square nautical miles. Read more. [OL - No mention is made of the technology purported to be employed].
International shippers are "impressed" with the Indian military's confrontation of the piracy off the coast of Somalia and have expressed the appreciation of the efforts -Economic Times of India.
"We are very grateful to the efforts of the Indian military and their contribution to tackle the Somali piracy is really very impressive. The international shipping community is very pleased with that," Simon Bennett, director of external relations of the London-based International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), said.
He pointed out that piracy off Somalia was currently at the lowest level with about 200 seafarers held in captivity.
"However, this is totally unacceptable," he said. He also called on India to allow the embarkation and disembarkation of armed guards on merchant ships.
"We understand the sensitivities of the issues in India about people with arms and terrorism. But we are sure that working through the international community procedures can be agreed whereby it is possible to embark and disembark armed guards in India," said Bennett, who is here to attend the three-day Asia Pacific Maritime 2012 conference in Singapore which opened yesterday. Read more.
Military and civilian maritime professionals from West Africa, Europe, and the United States finalized a challenging training agenda for exercise Saharan Express 2012, March 14 - Defence Professionals.
This week's final planning conference at the Counternarcotics and Maritime Security (COSMAR) interagency operations center culminates previous months of close coordination to plan complex maritime interdiction operation (MIO) scenarios to be executed later this spring.
"We live in a world that is confronted with many problems like piracy, drug trafficking, terrorism, organized crime," said Col. Alberto Ferdandes, chief of staff, Cape Verde armed forces. "It's necessary for each of us to find a solution to respond to these problems in an efficient manner, we need to have a communal response and it is important that we are all prepared so we can produce a unified action."
Fernandes said he hopes exercise Saharan Express will offer each partner nation the opportunity to work together and establish interoperability in the region. Read more.