May 23, 2024

When we think about pirates, the images that pop into our minds might be  scattered pictures from the film ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’. In reality, the picture may not be as fancy as depicted in the movie. But the activities and crimes committed by the pirates are sort of the same kind. If we talk about modern day piracy , the Somali pirates are at the top of the list . Somali pirates have gained international notoriety for their activities in the Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean, and Red Sea. These pirates are engaged in hijacking commercial vessels and often demanding huge ransom payments for the release of the crew and the vessel.


Somalia is a country marred with instability , poverty , violence since the 1990s.The government of Somalia collapsed and the country was divided. As there was no effective central government , a power vacuum was created. Different local clans started to control patches of the country. Crime has been facilitated easier in most of Somalia by an array of factors including extremism, weapons proliferation, corruption, inter-clan rivalry and widespread impunity.

There was no authority to control its long coastline. So foreign countries took advantage of it . They started to fish in this unregulated part of the sea . These foreign vessels stole hundreds of dollars of seafood every year . They used illegal means that destroyed the sea bed and the ecosystem . Foreign companies also dumped toxic waste into the land and water of Somalia. This illegal fishing and pollution had an adverse effect on the local fisherman community. 

Somalia’s location in the horn of Africa has given its native people to choose fishing as their means of living for a long time . Local Somali fishermen could not compete with the foreign fishing vessels. The effect of the toxic waste led to widespread health degradation of the locals. Eventually , Somali people’s livelihood was threatened by foreigners and there was no central government to help them out. 

Rise of Piracy

The absence of effective maritime law enforcement led Somali fishermen to create a sort of sea militia. A small number of “pirate bosses” coordinated and supplied pirates with boats and guns. Pirates usually work in groups of four to six members. They target commercial ships, including cargo ships and oil tankers, and they often ask for ransom payments in exchange for the crew’s and the ship’s release. Their investors, who are located farther inland, don’t actively participate in piracy. They put money into the piracy venture with the intention of splitting any profits made from ransom payment. The main piracy networks in Somalia depend heavily on the bosses of the pirates. 

Clan militia claims to defend Somalia’s territorial seas against poachers and polluters, which led them to turn into maritime criminals. As the number of hijackings increased , pirates’ main target was the corridor adjacent to the horn of Africa headed towards the Suez Canal. It is one of the main gateways of international trade. The Somali pirates extracted millions of dollars from this. For example , in 2008 they demanded 8 million dollars for hijacking a Ukrainian vessel. This piracy business model started to become more lucrative . In 2011, the Somali pirates received around 150 million dollars as ransom .

Initiatives By International Community

The international community took some initiatives to protect commercial vessels .In April 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton released a more comprehensive four-point plan that centered on bolstering prosecution operations, freezing the bosses’ assets, and addressing concerns about regional stability.They also created an internationally recognized corridor where ships could all travel together like in a caravan. The ships can also have navy ships to protect them. These steps had a great impact . There was a major decline in the number of piracy after 2011.

However, Somali piracy is not entirely eradicated and sporadic attacks still occur. The Somali government and the international community continue to face difficulties in addressing the underlying reasons of piracy, which include poverty and insecurity in the country.

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