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Somali Pirates Create Mayhem and US Navy is Helpless

Updated on January 2, 2010

Pardon me for asking whether the Pirates of the Caribbean have influenced the antics of the Somali Pirates off East Africa in the Indian Ocean? The only thing lacking is the invincibility of Captain Davy Jones pirate tribe. Or is it? Going from the past events the Somali pirates seem just as invincible as the pirates of the Flying Dutchman. What else can explain their audacity in hijacking ship after ship right under the nose of the world’s mightiest navies, U.S. navy included.

Even after occasional successes against these pirates, for instance, the Indian Navy’s attack against the Somali pirates off the Gulf of Eden in November, the hardy pirates keep surfacing time and again. Are they regenerating or is the entire Somalia turning into Pirate Bay? But one thing is clear the Pirates of the Gulf are not deterred by the combined naval might of all the major navies. Something akin to Afghanistan? One can’t help wondering.

But jokes aside, the continued attacks on the merchant vessels by these Somali pirates poses a real danger to the sea trade through the Gulf of Eden. The Kenyan Foreign Minister states that the Somali pirates have received more than $150 million in ransom till 2008 and they have witnessed a business upswing from late 2008 onwards. No recession for the Somali pirates! Many of the attacks have been on vessels carrying food and other humanitarian assistance to the poor and hungry in Africa, especially Somalia. What an irony. But that’s what thirty years of civil war does to a society. Lawlessness, corruption and fear stalk Somalia 24/7 and western powers side with the militia or the government of the day depending on their convenience. Of course, it’s debatable whether the Somali government itself is the militia or the law enforcer or both.

73% of the Somalis live on less than $2 a day and Somalia’s per capita GDP is $600, which explains to a large extent the desperate actions of the Somali pirates. After all, when death is almost certain, why not die rich amidst bravado rather than starve to death or as a helpless victim of the civil war. But one might ask why is the combined might of the US, Chinese, European and Indian navies unable to curb the ship-jacking by these pirates? An answer lies in the complexity of sea battles vis-à-vis land or air battles. Also low tech can be a boon at times. Lastly it’s not possible to provide protection to every vessel that sails through the dreaded seas. And obviously these Somali pirates have the benefit of surprise and stealth, a potent combination indeed!        

 So next time you think about venturing into the Gulf of Aden, think Pirates with a capital P.


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