December 14, 2010: NATO recently issued a warning to merchant ships that Somali pirates were operating a few hundred kilometers off the Indian, Pakistani and Omani coasts. In other words, these pirates were now active from the west coast of India to the east coast of Africa and north to the Persian Gulf. Now that the pirates have demonstrated their ability to operate far (over 2,000 kilometers) from shore, it's no longer possible to just use naval patrols and convoy escorts. That worked in the Gulf of Aden, but father off the Somali coast, there is simply too much area to patrol. With ocean going mother ships, the pirates can operate anywhere in the region. Between the Gulf of Aden, and the Straits of Malacca to the east (between Singapore and Indonesia), you have a third of the world's shipping. All are now at risk. Convoys for all these ships would require more warships (hundreds) than can be obtained.
But there are not a lot of mother ships out there. For over a year now, the anti-piracy patrol, using patrol aircraft in Djibouti and the Seychelles islands, have been searching for the mother ships, sending warships to inspect them, and destroy them if pirate use is confirmed. But the pirates are simply arrested and later dumped on a beach in Somalia. And some of the mother ships get past the patrols, and score. On December 11th, a 70,000 ton cargo ship, and its 24 man crew, was taken 2,200 kilometers from Somalia, and less than a thousand kilometers from India.
The pirate gangs see the loss of mother ships, their speed boats, weapons and boarding gear, as simply a cost of doing business. Since the pirates are not killed, there is no shortage of volunteers to ship out on the mother ships, and take their chances. Even the lowest ranking pirate involved in the seizure and subsequent imprisonment of the ship and crew (until the ransom can be negotiated), will walk away with $10,000 or more. This is a fortune in Somalia. So there are plenty of Somali men wanting to be pirates. Low risk, and high potential for the payoff of a lifetime.