A year after Somali piracy peaked with more than 100 ships attacked, the world’s navies have assembled dozens of warships to combat the threat. David Axe joins the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook in Djibouti, to observe firsthand this “global war on piracy.”
by DAVID AXE
“We’re victims of our own success, collectively,” says Commander Derek Granger, captain of the destroyer USS Donald Cook. A year after Somali piracy grabbed the headlines with a series of high-profile hijackings, the world has mobilized to deter further piracy — and to great effect. There were 17 hijackings between July and September 2008. There was just one in the same period, this year. The presence of some 40 international warships, including “DC,” has made piracy a risky proposition for the criminals.
“How long can you sustain it?” Granger asks regarding this armada. “It’s expensive keeping ships underway.” And with pirates staying home for now, the world might think the problem is permanent resolved. But piracy’s like the Pillsbury Doughboy, Granger says. You poke it here, and it pops out there. It never stays poked forever.
So what’s cheaper? Maintaining a permanent system of naval patrols in East African waters, or allowing the patrols to wane until attacks spike again — at which point the world can surge more forces into the area? Granger seems to dislike his own conclusion. “My gut feeling is it’s cheaper to deal with the spike.”
But that means that potentially hundreds of seafarers will wind up in captivity during the breaks in international patrols. That’s a high price to pay, but maybe not so high that it’s worth sustaining an armada in remote, inhospitable African waters.
(Photo: David Axe)
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