Piracy still a viable business modelJanuary 4, 2013
It is remarkable that “In the past six months, there has been no successful hijacking of a merchant vessel off Somalia.” This is thanks largely to more armed guards on merchant vessels and the presence of NATO forces.
Yet, warns the NATO commander, “the business model is still intact” for Somali pirates, who have soaked corporations, insurance companies, and their governments of hundreds of millions of dollars. The opportunity here is to build on recent successes and bring the Somali pirates to their knees once and for all. It’s not the time for the NATO fleet to sail home yet.
World must not let up pressure on Somali pirates – NATO
By Adrian Croft
BRUSSELS | Mon Dec 17, 2012
(Reuters) – Pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia have dropped sharply this year but piracy remains a viable “business model” and could bounce back if international naval forces in the region are cut back, the outgoing commander of the NATO mission said on Monday.
Hijackings of ships in a vast area of the Indian Ocean off Somalia have dropped to seven in the first 11 months of this year compared to 24 in the whole of 2011, although Dutch Commodore Ben Bekkering said 136 hostages were still being held.
In the past six months, there has been no successful hijacking of a merchant vessel off Somalia, said Bekkering, who has handed over command of NATO’s Ocean Shield anti-piracy force to Italian Rear-Admiral Antonio Natale.
Pirates operating from the Somali coast have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in ransoms from hijacking ships, leading NATO, the European Union and other nations to dispatch warships to patrol the area.
Merchant ships responded with tighter security measures, including greater use of private armed security guards.
Bekkering attributed the decline in piracy to the naval patrols, the heightened security on the merchant ships, putting suspected pirates on trial outside Somalia and the Somali authorities’ counter-piracy campaigns.
Some pirates had abandoned their camps, seeing them as too risky, and taken refuge in villages, he said.
But the gains in fighting piracy were reversible if the world’s navies eased up on their efforts, he said.
“I am convinced, if navy ships would disappear, the piracy model would still be intact,” he told a news conference.
“Yes, they don’t deploy that much to sea but the leadership of the piracy is still there and if they hold their breath for a little while and nations (take) their navy ships back, I am pretty sure that the business model is still intact.”
The financial crisis has led many Western countries to slash their defence budgets, but Bekkering said he saw no sign NATO nations’ commitment to the anti-piracy operation was waning.
In March, the alliance extended its counter-piracy mission until the end of 2014.
Bekkering said about 16 to 18 ships from all international forces were on patrol in the Indian Ocean at any one time and this was the “bare minimum” needed to patrol such a vast area.
Pirates are still holding five ships with 136 hostages of various nationalities…