International Cooperation Against Maritime Piracy

  • 5 October 2008

Recent instances of piracy in the Red Sea, especially close to the Somali coastline, as well as extensive coverage of such incidents in the media has underscored the need for a wider and effective cooperation to stem the menace, especially as the problem cannot be confronted by any country on its own. A common international effort is needed to eradicate this problem—just like issues of terrorism, drugs, money-laundering, pollution, etc. Statistics reveals a sudden and unusual spike in these criminal seafaring raids, which now pose a grave threat to international maritime operations. A recently released specialized report highlights the enormity of the problem for international commercial navigation in the Suez Canal and warns that piracy could well-nigh bring all legitimate maritime activity in the area to a halt, as the International Maritime Organization has recorded pirate attacks on 60 ships in the Gulf of Eden and the Indian Ocean since January 2008. This suggests that the problem has turned into a major seafaring hazard and it can no longer be seen as a series of isolated incidents. Secondly, pirates are becoming bolder and have started seizing large ships and even weapon-bearing vessels—like a Ukrainian ship seized on September 15—for ransom. This clearly shows that usual law enforcement measures cannot effectively tackle the problem. Thirdly, the vague identity of pirates operating in the Red Sea and the hideous forces supporting them, have raised suspicions of their links with terrorist groups, which is possible given the present state of instability and anarchy reigning in the 'Horn of Africa'.

Undoubtedly, there is growing international unease over the dangerous and rapid escalation of the issued, and this is reflected in the several international calls being made recently for wider cooperation—at security and military levels—for confronting piracy in the Red Sea. The importance of growing international unease and concern over the menace emanates from the fact that the criminal gangs, whatever their objective or nature of activity, seem to be exploiting the preoccupation of the world with other bigger crises. Consequently, it is important that an effective international cooperation for confronting Red Sea pirates is evolved in order to send out a clear message to pirates as well as to all other forces of violence, radicalism and destruction on the international scene that despite the severity and extent of the financial and political crises, the world will not lower its guard or its responsiveness to any other threat confronting it. If international cooperation for confronting maritime piracy has become the need of the hour, the need for effective Arab cooperation with countries bordering the Red Sea requires equal attention so that a common vision is developed to protect Arab interests and to safeguard Arab national security.