“Pirates are winning,” analyst Martin Murphy told me last fall, after Somali sea bandits had seized around 40 vessels in one year.
Then there was the deployment to Somali waters of two dozen warships from a dozen nations — the greatest concentration of international naval power since World War II. In early 2009, attacks were down. “We have had a great effect,” U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Terry McKnight said.
But McKnight admitted that poor weather could be keeping pirates ashore. Sure enough, the weather has now cleared, and attacks are up — to a level three times that in 2008, according to Galrahn.
Recall that Somali piracy has its roots in the 1990s, when the collapse of the Somali government threw open the doors to major foreign fishing companies to illegally enter Somali waters and fish out all the tuna, which once comprised one of Somalia’s major commodities. The first Somali pirates were fishermen who decided to render a “fine” on any boats they found illegaly fishing Somali waters.
Well, guess what. Piracy has effectively cut in half tuna hauls for major foreign fishing companies working near Somalia, according to Warships International Fleet Review. Today piracy is essentially organized crime, at sea. But the piracy mafia has inadvertently accomplished what the original pirates set out to do.
Somali pirates have every reason to be proud. Whether on purpose or not, they have defended their waters while evading the combined might of the world’s navies.
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