Thursday, June 4, 2009

Good Times are ending for Somali Pirates?

While Somali Pirates who survive to brigand another day have been supporting themselves lavishly of late, it is becoming harder to be a pirate in Somalia, which, while good for International Shipping, is a truly dire prospect for people in Somalia.

Take this interview with a Somali Pirate, Mohamed Said

He and his colleagues have hijacked nearly 30 vessels this year, meaning 2009 is on course to be even worse than last year, when pirates from the Horn of Africa nation seized 42 ships.

But the crime wave has prompted a hurried deployment in the region by foreign navies, thwarting several attacks -- and now the weather is turning too, making the seas rougher and the pirates' prey harder to hunt.

"My biggest fear is that the piracy business will have to stop. The weather will be terrible in the coming days and the warships have increased in number," Said told Reuters in Eyl.

"I have experienced the bitter-sweetness of piracy," he added, pointing out that his car, satellite telephone and speedboat were all paid for with his cut from ransoms.

Those who have must enjoy their earnings, while the have-nots die of hunger and worry," Said added with a shrug...

...I wish this merry life would last forever. But I'm afraid that circumstances may force me to give up piracy completely."

Now, no one is going to argue that the excesses portrayed in the article, the sense of the swaggering gangster, and indeed, the attacks that put both his and the lives of others at risk are things to be lauded. But consider that Piracy is one of the only options for betterment in a globalized society in Somalia.

Take a different interview with another pirate, Yassin Dheere from an article I mentioned in January:
"I was born in Eyl town and I used to be a fisherman.

I was forced to hijack foreign ships after the central government collapsed. No one was monitoring the sea, and we couldn't fish properly, because the ships which trawl the Somali coasts illegally would destroy our small boats and equipment. That is what forced us to become pirates.

The first time I was involved in hijacking a ship was 2003. It must have been Arabian, there were 18 Yemeni crew. It was a big fishing ship that destroyed our boats several times.

We surrounded it with our boats and seized it at gunpoint at night. We did not know these modern methods of using hooks and ladders, so we got near with our boats and climbed on.

We held it for two weeks, then some Somali and Arab mediators stepped in to negotiate. We were convinced to take $50,000 as compensation. Gosh! This was a huge amount for us. That inspired us and gave us an appetite for hunting ships.

At that time we had no idea what we were doing, we were very worried about what would happen. Two of my friends backed out because they were afraid.

In fact, my life has changed dramatically because I've received more money than I ever thought I would see. In one incident, I got $250,000, so my life has changed completely."

So, let's talk about what this says, in order to provide for themselves basically, by harvesting food from lands that they have real geographic relationships to, they are forced to either starve or pirate. It's not like they have much to trade in a globalized society, check out the CIA Factbook to see what their economy looks like, it is based on livestock, and at one time, fishing.

Take a major resource off the table, fish, and you have taken what was already an extremely tenuous group of resources and created a situation that isn't survivable. Desperate situations lead to desperate action, action that brings in more money than most Somalians had ever imagined.

Take that away suddenly, and what do you have? What is left for them after piracy?

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