Sea Transportation: NATO And The Pirates

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July 23, 2008: Piracy declined in the first six months of this year, with 114 attacks worldwide, versus 126 in the first half of 2007. But most of the costliest attacks are happening in two areas; Somalia and Nigeria. The worst of this is happening off the northern coast of Somalia, where pirates don't just rob ships, and then speed away, but seize ships and hold them, and their crews, for ransom. This is much more expensive for the ship owners, and more dangerous for the crews.

Meanwhile, Somali pirates have shifted their operations to the far north, on the Gulf of Aden (which separates Somalia from Yemen, in southern Arabia). Over 80 percent of the pirate attacks are now taking place in the Gulf of Aden, where heavy Red Sea traffic provides a larger number of potential victims.

While Nigeria has a navy and coast guard that can battle the piracy problem, Somalia is without any central government, or seagoing military forces. So the international community has been sending more and more warships to patrol the coast.

For the last three years, an international naval patrol, CTF 150 (Combined Task Force 150, operating out of Djibouti) has patrolled the 3,000 kilometer long coast. But with only about fifteen ships (from half a dozen nations), the CTF 150 has been able to slow down the pirates, but not stop them.

Moreover, unless this coastal patrol force was willing to send troops ashore to kill or arrest the pirates in the land bases, the pirates will keep playing hide-and-seek with the naval patrols, and continue to attack ships and get away with it.

 

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