A shocking rise in pirate attacks over the last decade has left many in the shipping industry scrambling for protection, leading to a new market for security forces trained to fight off the swashbuckling foes. Photographer Amnon Gutman witnessed this scramble for security first-hand as he sailed one of the most dangerous waterways in the world with a crew, their cargo — and a private security detail trained in pirate-deflecting techniques. The fear of attack, especially near Somalia, is a well-founded one. As Gutman notes, of the 439 attacks reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in 2011, 275 attacks took place off Somalia’s east coast and in the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa. However, while Somali pirates continue to account for the majority of attacks — approximately 54 percent – and while the overall number of Somali incidents increased from 219 in 2010 to 237 in 2011, the number of successful hijackings decreased from 49 to 28. The 802 crew members taken hostage in 2011 also marks a decrease from the four-year high of 1,181 in 2010.
This may be because of more aggressive policing — the European Union recently authorized its most expansive mission against pirates in Africa — but many ships aren’t taking any chances. On this journey through the Indian Ocean on a shipping vessel that wishes to remain anonymous, SeaGull security walked through the methods still being developed to combat modern piracy.
Above, crew members secure barbed wires on the side of the tanker to prevent potential pirates from climbing aboard two days before going into the high-risk zone.
The EU (European Union) agreed, on March 23rd, to allow its anti-piracy force off Somalia (EUNAVFOR) to attack coastal targets and coordinate military operations with the Somali TNG (Transitional National Government). This means that EUNAVFOR ships and aircraft can attack pirate targets on land. Most of the pirate bases (coastal towns and villages) are in Puntland, a self-declared state in northern Somalia. While less violent and chaotic than southern Somalia, Puntland officials are bribed and intimidated (by the superior firepower of the pirate gangs) into inaction. Technically, Puntland is opposed to the pirates, so the EU is hoping that Puntland won’t make a stink when EU forces begin shooting at pirates on the coast.
The EU plan apparently involves going after pirate logistics and fuel supplies in their coastal havens. This could be tricky, as the pirates are well aware of how the Western media works and could easily put many of these targets in residential neighborhoods. The EU could respond by blockading the pirate bases, and attacking pirate attempts to truck in fuel and other supplies. Pirates could put civilians on trucks, or even captured sailors from ships held for ransom. There is no easy solution to the Somali pirates. This new policy is not a radical shift in policy, but a continuation of a trend that has been under way for a while. For example, in the last year, the EU, and other members of the anti-piracy patrol, have taken a more aggressive approach to the pirates. Pirate mother ships (usually captured ocean going fishing ships) have been attacked on sight and any speedboat carrying armed men face similar treatment. Continue reading
As the monsoon season has come to an end, the rate of pirate attacks has increased markedly. This week, there were eight attacks, of which one resulted in the successful hijack of a fishing vessel. Last night,Somalia Reportreceived information that pirates had hijacked an oil tanker, MV Leila, however we are as of yet to receive confirmation of the incident.Somalia Reportwill follow developments closely and update when possible.
As theWajillowinds die down, pirates are descending upon Harardhere, Dhinooda and Eldhanane in preparation for launching a new wave of attacks. Dozens of investors, too, are positioning themselves to invest in the coming operations.
Local officials in Puntland toldSomalia Reportlast week that they are preparing for a pirate onslaught.
“We all know what happens. Local fishermen as well as pirates wait for the winds to subside in order to head offshore. There will be a resurgence in activity after the end of the month,” Ahmed Gurey, chairman of Bargaal toldSomalia Report.
While many more pirates may be heading out to sea, their success rate is declining as a result ofthe increased use of armed guards deployed on commercial vessels.An incident this week, in which Italian naval personnel on a commercial vessel shot and killed two Indian fishermen has provoked concern, however, about the rules for the use of force in the maritime domain.
Developments On Land
On February 15, forces loyal to Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa (ASWJ) arrested six pirates, accusing them of fuelling insecurity in Dhusomareb, the capital of Galgadud.
This is but the latest incident in a series of arrests over the past couple of weeks; ASWJ arrested a group in Guriel in early February, however the eight pirates (Flastin Ali, Ahmed Mire, Dahir Salad, Abdi Gelle, Nuune Abdulahi Ali, Ahmed Abdi, Ali Abdi and Ba’adle Shiekh Hussein) were subsequently offered amnesty on account of local clan-based resistance to the arrests.
Flastin, one of the arrested pirates toldSomalia Report,“We believe local elders arranged for our release, and we thank the administration for their decision. We did not come here to carry out kidnappings, but to visit our families here.”
The Deputy District Commissioner in Dhusomareb, Sheikh Abdullahi Abdinur Barre said, “They are a threat to us, they are importing immorality into our city and we have to stop them. We will continue to make such arrests.”
On Monday, Puntland officials reported that police had arrested 11 pirates in Gabac village, near Eyl, during counter-piracy operations in Nugaal. Police seized and burned one speedboat, and arrested the pirates after they tried to flee. The pirates were transferred to Garowe jail, where they are now awaiting trial. The pirates are part of the pirate group working under Garaad Mohammed, a well known pirate leader responsible for securing the $3.5 million ransom for the release the Algerian-flagged MV Blida.
Quest Pirates Sentenced
Two pirates, Mohamud Hirsi Issa Ali and Jilian Abdi Ali, involved in the S/V Quest hijacking and shootoutwere sentenced to life in prison for a second time on Tuesday. US District Judge Mark Davis, who sentenced them the first time, recused himself, following revelations that the US Navy had transferred the yacht to a marina part-owned by his brother. A second judge was assigned to the case and came to the same verdict.
Nine more pirates have pleaded guilty in the case, with three facing murder charges.
Somaliland Commandos Graduate
Somaliland can now count on a contingent of specially trained commandos to help in the fight against piracy. The team underwent a six month training course in Dararweine district, which focused on sea, air and land-based warfare techniques. Major Ahmed Tanzania, the armed forces training commander, said the team would be deployed to aid in the fight against piracy, counter-terrorism and secessionists.
Somaliland Busy Two Speedboats To Fight Pirates
Somaliland has purchased two speedboats, which have been transferred to the Minister for Fishing, Abdulahi Jama Geeljire. The boats will be used for counter-piracy operations, and to combat illegal fishing in Somaliland’s waters. The Minister stated that the boats had not been donated, but were purchased on the part of the government in a bid to improve their counter-piracy capacity. He added that Somaliland is looking to buy more boats over the course of the year.
The Albedois still being held in the Harardhere area, after the latest negotiations failed to materialise in a ransom. After a period of silence following reports that pirates were looting goods on the vessel, ransom negotiations have resumed.