The media has reported very little on pirating recently. According to my friend, William Garzke, chairman of the Marine Forensics Panel for SNAME, it is probably because there has not been a high-profile incident. Besides, he explained that there is a strong naval presence along the coast of East Africa, thanks to task forces from several countries.
The following excerpt is quoted from an e-mail sent to me by William Garzke in June, 2009:
“Pirating has been a problem for centuries as you know, but the present-day pirate is a different one. There are areas in the world in which you do not want to be in a small boat or aboard a ship. These areas are East Africa (Somalia), the Malacca Strait, and the Philippine Islands. The recent hijacking of the Alabama Maersk only brought attention to a problem that has been going on for several years now. There was the Achille Lauro incident where Arab terrorists seized that ship for political purposes in the 1980’s.
Young men with modern weapons and fast boats will try to intercept ships at sea and hold them for ransom. At present there are a number of ships being held in Somalia against their will, but there is little that can be done because the government of Somalia is as bad as the pirates themselves. One need to discuss the politics there because the country is one of the poorest in the world. There are no incentives for persons living there because there are no economic opportunities for its citizens. Pouring money into that country will not be the answer in the long term as it does not increase incentive.
As to the ships that are threatened along with passengers and crews, arming them will not be the long-term solution. It might be a short-term solution, but considering the desperate conditions that these pirates live day to day, it will not stop attempts to seize ships for ransom. One of the difficulties in providing armed countermeasures is the ships themselves. These pirates have some sophisticated weapons that can penetrate the hull plating of ships they intend to target. The ship might try to evade the pirate but sustain serious damage and possible loss of life
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At the present time economic pressures are forcing ship owners to make difficult decisions. The crews of some these ships have only eight or more crew aboard. This means that watch standing only has a few persons available at any one time on the lookout for pirates. Yes, the owner could have special anti-pirate personnel aboard, but this costs money and the easier decision is not to serve ports that require entrance into areas where pirating is practiced.”