Sea Transportation: UN Allows Invasion Of Somalia

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December 17, 2008: Shipping companies are pressuring the major naval powers to go ashore and clear out the pirate bases. Without those safe havens, the Somali pirate would be seagoing muggers, not hijackers. On December 16th, the UN passed a resolution authorizing going ashore to take out pirates and their bases. Resolution 1851 allows UN members to "take all necessary measures that are appropriate in Somalia" in order to eliminate "acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea." The U.S. was pressing for this resolution, but was forced to compromise by leaving out authorization to enter Somali air space. The resolution was sponsored by the United States, Belgium, France, Greece, Liberia and South Korea, and expires in a year.

Because of the sharp increase in activity by Somali buccaneers, pirate attacks worldwide went from 53 in the first three months of the year, to 63 in the second quarter and 83 in the third quarter. Off Somalia alone, there were 98 attacks so far this year, with 42 of them resulting in pirates taking control of ships. While about half the pirate attacks this year were off Somalia, these were also the most expensive. Only off Somalia do pirates steal the ships and hold them for ransom. They do that because they have safe bases in Somalia, something that is not available to pirates anywhere else on the planet.

These ship hijackings have caused shipping companies to take a number of measures to safeguard their vessels (which cost anywhere from a few million, to over a hundred million dollars). Ransoms paid so far have ranged from a few hundred thousand dollars, to about two million. But the Somali pirates are demanding as much as $25 million for some of the ships they still hold. Ship companies are already paying over $10,000 additional insurance for each ship passing through Somali waters. But while the insurance company will pay most, or all, of the ransom if a ship is hijacked, the owner still gets stuck with legal fees, lost income (for the weeks or months the ship is held captive) and unhappy employees (the crew).

Many ship companies are taking additional measures. Some are avoiding the Suez Canal, and taking on the additional time and expense of sending their ships around the southern tip of Africa, instead of through the canal. Some cruise ships are either avoiding the Suez Canal, or flying their passengers ahead while the ship makes the run through the Gulf of Aden. An increasing number of ships are embarking a security team, and trying to get firearms for them, rather than just non-lethal devices.

 


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