Increasing Threat of Piracy

  • 12 April 2009

Despite efforts and actions undertaken to confront the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, the threat is noticeably increasing. After a period of relative calm, pirates have returned in force to intercepting ships, taking hostages, and threatening marine navigation passages and international trade routes. During the past few days, they detained a large number of ships, challenging some countries’ battleships operating in the region.

The pirates’ latest operations point to two important issues. First, they are showing a boldness in attacking targets, including fast ships that they previously  could not attack. Observers and watchers believe that pirates have largely enhanced their capacity and are capable of executing complex and difficult operations, benefiting from the money they made from prior successes. Second, pirates are capable of maneuvering and changing their tactics and areas of operation as situations warrant. The latest operations have focused on the Indian Ocean since the work of pirates in the Gulf of Aden had become harder in view of the noticeable military presence of many international forces, especially those from the United States, France, and Russia.

This increase in piracy operations indicates that international efforts to confront it are still inadequate and unable to secure vital international trade routes such as the Gulf of Aden. This is so because the current efforts, on the one hand, are not part of a coordinated international strategy and, on the other, do not address the roots of the  problem that are best seen in the chaos and instability in Somalia. Therefore, any effective confrontation with piracy and pirates must rely on two important bases. First, there should be full global cooperation and common action with one vision under one umbrella to achieve the required coordination needed to accomplish the mission. This is important because of the large area of water that must be supervised and controlled – 2.5 km2 by most estimates – which gives the pirates great leeway to come and go as they please and to continuously change their areas of operation. Second, there should be a comprehensive look that can pinpoint the reasons behind piracy. Work should focus on treating the roots of the problem and not only its consequences and outcomes. There is no doubt that as long as things are unstable in Somalia, the piracy threat will persist regardless of the nature of military actions against it.

International trade is now facing a great danger in light of increased piracy on the high seas. It is clear that the great sums of money pirates accumulate from these operations help them persist in continuing their actions, which makes widespread international cooperation and adoption of comprehensive strategies of  confrontation two important issues in the coming period, especially that the threat has affected everyone without exception.