The Somali pirates are a problem again, mainly because they are no longer a problem. It works like this. Armed guards and aggressive naval and air patrolling off the Somali coast have reduced pirate activity to the lowest level in a decade.
That means only (seven attacks so far this year with no ships seized. Most shipping companies and governments paying for their warships and aircraft to patrol the coast agree that the main deterrent was finally allowing armed guards on merchant ships. This increases costs a few thousand dollars for ships that pass near the Somali coast, but shipping companies note that just firing warning shots will cause pirates to turn away 90 percent of the time and when the pirates keep coming having a few shots hit their boats has always caused persistent attackers to turn and flee. It’s not just gunfire that has caused the pirates to disappear lack of income has done the same. All the Somali pirates still operating are small time operators hoping to strike it rich with a long-shot success. In the last year all the larger pirate organizations have shut down. Two of the major pirate gang leaders publicly announced that they had gotten out for the simple and obvious fact that no one was capturing large ships and earning multi-million dollar ransoms anymore.
This has led many countries to consider halting their support for the international anti-piracy patrol. If the armed guards are so effective why bother spending several hundred million dollars a year in additional costs incurred by sending warships and patrol aircraft to the Somali coast rather than keeping them at home. Some naval commanders point out that these naval operations are an excellent way for navies to perfect techniques for operating with allies and getting to know other who might become allies, or opponents and doing so under realistic (similar to wartime) conditions. Naval analysts admit that the only risk of withdrawing from the Somali coast would be the possibility that a major warlord would again finance a large piracy operation and develop some new tactics that could overcome the armed guards. That is a long shot (but still a real possibility) and in the near term the pirates are likely to remain dissuaded by the armed guards. Absent the armed guards the pirates could return in a big way.
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