November 27, 2005: The growing piracy problem off the Somali coast has been solved by the hiring of private contractors to operate as a coast guard. The American firm, Top Cat Marine Security (www.TopCatMarineSecurity.com), has previously provided counter-terrorism and coastal security services for the Department of Homeland Defense, and other government agencies. The firm also designs and builds high speed patrol boats.
While no one is saying it, the United States is basically taking over coastal security duties for Somalia. The Transitional Government there has no money for this sort of thing, so it appears that the U.S. is picking up the tab. This could get interesting, for the Somali warlords who operate along the coast are not going to take kindly to some foreigners trying to interfere. The first priority of the new coast guard is to put the pirate gangs, and especially the two larger "mother ships", that are supporting attacks far out at sea, out of action.
Many of the Top Cat personnel will be non-Somali, and former military. Most of the staff will eventually be Somalis. By not sending active duty American military personnel into this, there is less for the media to grab onto and cause public opinion problems for the U.S. government. There's also the opportunity for more private security forces to be used to help pacify all of Somalia. That would be very expensive, and it's not a sure thing that the United States government would be willing to absorb the entire cost, as well as the media heat for spending all that money to try and police a bunch of uncooperative, heavily armed and, ungrateful Somalis.
Top Cat Marine Security is being paid $55 million for the first two years of the contract. Some of this will be recovered by enforcing the payment of fishing fees by foreign boats that work the lucrative coastal waters. Warlords are now getting some of this money, by demanding protection money from fishing boats, and ransom fro boats that are seized by pirates. In reaction to the police effort, the warlords can be expected to go after the new coast guards land bases. Top Cat will either have to establish heavily fortified and well defended land bases, or put some, or all, of them in foreign countries (like Kenya, Djibouti, and the breakaway Somaliland). But because of the extent of the Somali coat, it's unavoidable that a base be established in central Somalia, which is thick with heavily armed, aggressive and greedy warlords. Top Cat will have to live up to its name in order to survive.