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Crimes on the Sea - Piracy

Piracy can be traced back to 14th century BC.
In the 20th century piracy started to increase in

seriousness from the 1960s onwards.

Originally, pirates focused on the regions around

the Malacca Straits. It is now Africa where piracy is increasing particularly around the Gulf of Aden.

Malacca Straits

Gulf of Aden

Global Trade Routes

Defining Piracy
Article 101 of the United Nations Convention on the

Law of the Sea (1982) defines Piracy as:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of

depredation, committed for private ends [not on behalf of the state] by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:
(i) on the high seas [12 nautical mules from shore], against

another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft; (ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a

ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft; (c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).

Opportunity Structures
Murphy lists a number of conditions conducive to

Legal and jurisdictional weakness Favourable geography Conflict and disorder Under-funded law enforcement/inadequate security Permissive political environments Cultural acceptability Promise of Reward

Modus Operandi
Pirates generally target
Smaller ships (easier to board) Stationary ships (easier to board)

When attacking moving ships pirates

a) Employ speed boats distract the bridge while

accomplices board from the back; or b) Fire at the bridge and force them to stop, and then lower the ladder.

Common pirates will steal cash, personal

belongings and ship equipment.

Organised pirates will either:
Steal the ship and cargo Commit cargo fraud Hold the ship and crew to ransom

Depth of the Piracy Problem

Year 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Attacks 228 247 202 300 469 335 370 445 329 276 239

2008 2009

293 406

Vessels Attacked

Location of Attacks

The Cost of Piracy

Estimates of the financial damage caused by piracy

vary widely, ranging from US$500m to US$25bn. Costs include cargo stolen, ships destroyed, increased insurance premiums, on-board security costs and delays.
From 1995 2006, 3,284 crew members were held

hostage, 463 were injured, 349 were killed, 208 suffered assaults, 112 were kidnapped and held to ransom and 164 are missing presumed dead.
In 2008, 889 crew members were abducted, a 207

per cent increase on 2007

Piracy in Somalia
12 per cent of global maritime trade and 30 per

cent of the worlds crude oil shipments passes through the Gulf of Aden.
Since 2003 piracy in the region has rapidly

To understand the social conditions that have

produced the opportunity structure for piracy in Somalia, we will need to examine Somalias history.

Historical Context
Somalis are the indigenous people of the horn of

Africa they reside in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, and Djibouti.

Two thirds of Somalis are pastoralists. Somalis speak the same language, and generally

share the same faith Islam.

Clans remain a major organising principle of social life

in Somalia. The major clans are Dir, Hawiye, Isaaq, Darod, Digil, and Rahanwayan. There are approximately fifty six sub-clans.

The Colonial Era

Somalia was divided between three colonial powers

at the turn of the twentieth century, Italy, Britain and France.

Somalia was of strategic importance at best for the

colonial powers, thus there was little investment in the region.

While most Somalis remained nomadic pastoralists, a

small elite emerged during the colonial era made up of civil servants, teachers, soldiers, petty traders, and small-businessman.
In 1960 British and Italian Somaliland were unified to

form the independent Republic of Somalia.

Democratic rule: 1960 - 1969

Seats in parliament were divided among Somalias six clans on a

quota basis.
Somalias government leaned towards the USSR, owing to the

United States support for Ethiopia.

Skirmishes occurred on Somalias border with Ethiopia

elements in the army argued for a Greater Somalia.

Somalias economy lacked capital, while the government lacked

revenue, thus Somalia was dependent on foreign aid from its former colonisers.
On 15 October 1969, the democratically-elected president

Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was assassinated, the constitution was abolished and General Siad Barre took dictatorial power.

Barres Rule: 1969 - 1991

General Barre vowed to put an end to tribalism,

nepotism, corruption, and misrule through scientific socialism.

The USSR became Barres sponsor during the 1970s.

Somalia imported around $181 million worth of arms from the USSR.
US withdraw support for Ethiopia in 1977, like their

bitter enemy they turn to the USSR.

Sensing weakness, Barre invades Ogaden in pursuit

of Greater Somalia.

Barres Economic Woes

Barre is forced to withdraw in March 1978 after losing Soviet support. In 1980 Barre secures US support, over the next seven years Somalia purchases $500 million worth of arms from America. While Barre had managed to improve production in Somalias agricultural sector and light industries, following the Ogaden war production drops substantially. Somalias foreign debt increased substantially by the end of 1978 Somalia was dependent on foreign aid which constituted around fifty per cent of its reoccurring budget. In 1983 Somalias livestock market loses the Middle East market, at the time livestock constituted around 80 per cent of export earnings. Somalia is forced to implement a structural adjustment program under IMF sponsorship. Economic conditions worsen. Manufacturing output registered an annual drop of .5 per cent from 1980 to 1987, exports decreased by 16 .3 per cent from 1979 to 1986, while GDP in the same period rose .8 per cent annually. Of course the above figures do not take into account Somalias informal economy (local market sales, subsistence production etc).

Barres begins to play off clans against each other in an effort to

maintain control, patronage was delivered to those clans that supported his rule.
Barres especially favoured his own Darood clan.

Rebel insurgencies opposed to Barre develop in the 1980s.

Somali Salvation Democratic Front led by Colonel Abdullah Yusuf

Ahmed. Somali National Movement led by leaders from the Hawiye and Isaaq clans.
As the cold war comes to a close, Ethiopia and Somalia sign a

peace treaty in 1988 as both US and USSR withdraw from the region.
The rebels strike, by 1989 Barre only controls the areas around

Mogadishu. In January 1991 Barre flees.

1991-2010: The Somali Civil War

Battles break out in 1991 for control of Mogadishu

between clan warlords Ali Mahdi and Mohammed Aideed.

Famine breaks out in Spring 1992.
United Nations Operation Somalia is established

to monitor the ceasefire and protect food aid (80% of which was being stolen).
By the end of 1992 UNOSOM I was regarded as

a failure.

UNITAF implemented in December 1992 to restore

humanitarian supplies.
US Soldiers engaged in fierce fighting with local

militias in Mogadishu.
On October 3, 1993 in which 18 Americans, 1

Malaysian soldier and hundreds of Somalis were killed (popularised in the film Black Hawk Down.
The US withdraws, the are soon followed by other

members of the UN peace-keeping force.

In 2004 a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was formed with

equal representation from all regions.

Unable to secure Mogadishu the TFG was based in Baidoa. In 2006 the Hawiye dominated Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) formed.

CIC are supported by Eritrea, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah, while the TFG are supported by Ethiopia, Uganda and the US.
By September 2006, CIC controlled large parts of southern Somalia.

The CIC were repelled and the TFG ostensibly gained control of southern Somalia, but the civil war rages on.

Between 1991 and 2010 around 350 000 1,000,000 have died as a

result of the conflict, either directly through the fighting, or indirectly through famine.

Images from the Civil War

Piracy in Somalia
During Siad Barres rule, the Somali Maritime Force

protected Somalias waters, allowing Barre to sell fishing licenses to foreign companies.

UNOSOM managed to protect Somalias waters between

1991 and 1995.

Following UNOSOMs withdrawal Somalias waters were

left vulnerable, and exploited illegally by foreign fishing companies, denying local fisherman an essential resource.
Swiss and Italian companies paid Somali warlord Ali Mahdi

to dump toxic waste near Somalis coast. This not only damaged the fisheries stock, it also produced a health crisis for local villages.

Piracy in Somalia began between 1995 and 2000

as local fisherman boarded illegal fishing vessels to demand compensation.

Piracy has gradually become more organised and

adventurous in its targets.

Piracy attacks around Somalia

Somali pirates are generally armed with AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles

and RPG-7 rocket propelled grenades.

2 to 4 high speed skiffs approach moving vessels and attempt to

board if successful the crew and ship is taken hostage for ransom.

Shipping companies in 2006 attempted to avoid attacks by

remaining 200nm from the Somali coast.

Pirates have responded using motherships allowing high sea

Ex-fisherman provide local knowledge, ex-soldiers supply the

combat skills and technical experts provide the skills necessary to operate hi-tech equipment.
Pirates appear to be operating out of Puntland, as it is a

relatively stable region with the infrastructure necessary to

Efforts to Control Somali Piracy

A coalition of 16 nations have attempted to

control piracy in the Gulf of Aden by deploying warships to the area.

They are empowered under Security Council

resolutions 1816, 1838, 1846 and 1851.

Most commentators point to the need to resolve

the civil war and empower the TFG.

A Whacky Solution to Piracy

To properly understand the opportunity structure for piracy

in Somalia we must be able to trace:

Somalias pre-colonial history. Its post-colonial struggle to develop, through an economy

dominated by agricultural and pastoralism, and a state dominated by a dictator. The role clans have played both during pre-colonial, colonial and the post-colonial period, and how they feed the current political struggle between the transitional government and the Islamic guerrillas.
It is only by understanding, therefore, Somalias peculiar

trajectory of capitalist development dominated as it is by clans, the military and foreign powers such as US, USSR and Ethiopia, that we can begin to understand more clearly what fosters the conditions in Somalia that make piracy an attractive practice, with ample opportunities, and limited controls.