Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pirates in the News: February 4, 2010

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, emerging successful systems gotta propagate until they reach the boundaries of their sustainability, therefore pirates gotta hijack cargo on the high seas.

That said, Pirates have captured ships from Libya, Cambodia, one full of Hyndais that the car company seems bent on spinning into PR soundbites, one from Singapore, etc... In fact it has reported that pirate attacks are almost doubled between 2008 and 2009. There is plenty of teeth gnashing, gun waving, and suggestions of a harder line approach and analysis of why even with increased military intervention piracy continues to grow.

Somali based pirate rings are expanding their areas of operation, and increasing their numbers because what their doing is revitalizing the economy of their region. Not only are they setting up financial exchanges and investing in real estate, but the depleted fishing along the coast of the Horn of Africa is recovering from the overfishing by international companies, and fisherman along the coast as far as Kenya are able to increasingly maintain their livelihood, all thanks to the threat of pirate attack in those waters.
Fisherman in Kenya have reported bumper catches of shark and shellfish because commercial fishing boats from China and Japan have been scared away.

Now the fishermen are able to catch up to £200 worth of fish per day in an area where the average daily earnings are less than £5.

Like other tax-free areas that maintain their autonomy in complex regions, Somalia's quasi-independent Puntland is seeing a rebirth nourished by the thriving piracy industry.

Ransoms continue to be paid and ships continue to be released with efficiency, even when one sees high profile incidents like shootouts once ransoms have been paid where pirates take out their own compatriots. The simple truth is that most tankers captured are ransomed and released, at increasingly profitable rates for pirates. It's no picnic for sailors but piracy is too effective and distributed to be going away any time soon and shippers have to adapt.

While the military efforts against piracy are continuing to capture and thwart some attacks, finding their resources stretched, the question of what one does with a captured pirate is no less clear than it was two years ago. Different countries suggest that international tribunals are the answer, individual countries try the pirates their warships capture but run into problems both political and legal with a frequency that makes it difficult to create any single method for trial in any one country, much less internationally. Some pirates are simply released because no country wants to try them. The most famous pirate on trial in the USA is still Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, on trial in New York, who I will be devoted another post to later this week.

Interpol is trying to track pirate money, and claims to see no links to al-Qaeda, despite concerns that radical islamist groups are associated with Somali pirate groups.

On a personal note, it's a LOT easier to find pictures of Somali Pirates compared to 2007 when I started this blog and I kept having to reuse that one picture of two guys in a skiff with an AK.

While the idea of "what to do about pirates?" is still very present in dialogue in the west, a group of Somali pirates recently reached out to groups working in Haiti, trying to figure out how they can donate to relief efforts.

The “pirates” typically redistribute a significant portion of their profits
among relatives and the local population. In their operations, the “pirates”
urge transnational corporations that own the cargo confiscated to pay back in
cash as banks can not operate in Somalia.

”The humanitarian aid to Haiti can not be controlled by the United States and
European countries; they have no moral authority to do so. They are the ones
pirating mankind for many years,” said the Somali spokesman.

When observing how piracy has invigorated that area of Africa, despite the parasitic nature of the economy, one cannot help but think that maybe the pirates are on to something.

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