We’ve been talking about cargo piracy almost since day one of this website, with a particular focus on sea cargo piracy. While piracy has always been present wherever seaborne trade is concerned, the past few years have seen a rise in the number of reported incidents as well as a rise in the level of violence and sophisticated equipment and weaponry involved. We’ve seen Somalia rise in prominence as one of the riskiest waterways in the world thanks to a non-functioning government, plenty of warring factions and militias, and the relative quickness and ease with which shipowners and/or their insurance companies fork over exorbitant ransoms for the release of their crews. While there are regular reports of incidents of piracy, they rarely make for big headline news items or register very highly with the public in general. That all changed when Somalian pirates captured a French cruise ship back in April and held the crew for ransom. It now appears that people are taking things a bit more seriously.
Today Forbes has an interesting, if unintentionally amusing, profile on the rising risk of sea piracy and the growing violence it entails. The article correctly notes that piracy is a growing, and violent, risk and that it needs to be taken more seriously. However, the reason they give for the international community standing up and taking notice has nothing to do with cargo integrity or crew and passenger safety – It was the environment:
“Piracy is not going away,” says Peter Chalk, an international security analyst at the RAND Institute. “In fact, its getting more serious and more violent, and its only a matter of time before you need to take it more seriously.”
That’s starting to happen. The potential of a disastrous environmental spill resulting from an attack finally forced the international community to clamp down on sea piracy.
Really? So all those violent vessel seizures, executed crew members, seized cargo, and ransomed hostages weren’t enough to push the international community to action. It’s only when someone realized the potential of an environmental disaster that the international community springs to action. I wonder which international community the author is referring to? Certainly not France, who was very quick to take their own unilateral action after the seizing of one of their cruise ships. The French military shadowed the vessel and after a ransom paid and the hostages released, the military swooped into Somalia and onto the pirates, capturing 6 of them.
Another amusing point in this article is the apparent claim that the U.N.’s answer to the piracy problems in Somalia don’t involve a U.N. response:
Last week, the U.N. Security Council voted in favor of a new measure that would allow the U.S. military to engage Somalian sea pirates.
I haven’t the time to research this measure, and perhaps this is something that the U.S. naval presence in the region wants, but if true all I can say is, “so much for the international response” to the piracy problems in Somalia. An ideal approach might be a cooperative military function among neighboring countries, much the same way piracy in the Malacca Strait has gone down thanks to regional policing by countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. But considering the poverty and corruption of Somalia and its neighbors, it’s hard to argue against international policing of the waters by the U.S. or other allies.
Regardless, it’s nice to see a major publication like Forbes take up the serious risk of piracy to world commerce and security. They also have a handy slideshow of The World’s Most Dangerous Waters which I also recommend.