BLOG CTF 508/COMSNMG1
It is quiet on the north coast of Puntland. The local skiffs are mostly pulled onto the beach. The Yemeni dhows, coming over to purchase the catch of local fishermen, seem to have gone home. The answer is pretty straightforward. It is too hot. 32 degrees. And that is the seawater temperature. “Even the fish go away”, is what the locals tell us. Ramadan makes the effect even bigger than normal. Activity levels go down, family life becomes even more important and sailors and fishermen want to go home.
There is more movements on the political front in Somalia. Despite attempts to frustrate the process of electing a constitution, parliament and president, the declared deadline of the 20th of August is still within reach. A clear indication of the strong will of most Somali’s to establish a credible governing structure. And for the International Community a counterpart to work with in creating accountable security forces in all of Somalia’s regions.
The International maritime Bureau reports a strong decline in successful pirate attacks and credits it to a combination of naval patrols, best management practices and vessel protection detachments. We haven’t seen actual piracy related activity at sea since NATO’s HNLMS Evertsen disrupted the hijacked dhow Mohammad Rashid, detained 7 pirates and liberated the crew of 7. That was the 29th of June, two days after the dhow had tried to attack a merchant vessel in the Arabian Sea.
Yet, there are still 7 ships hijacked. And nearly 200 people hostage. Mostly under atrocious conditions. Two of them are anchored off the same north coast of Puntland. Safety of the crew prevent us from liberating the ships. The pirates ask hugh amounts of money. And in many cases they get it quite some way their way. Therefore, piracy is still an attractive option for the investors and an acceptable risk for the young people that go to sea, using fighting illegal fishing as a lame excuse, but effective enough to gain some support with the locals. Certainly not with all, but just enough to prepare and execute their despicable business.
Is this quiet period the proverbial calm preceding a storm? For sure the monsoon will lie down and the summer heat will retreat, as it has done so for as long as we know, dictating life in and around the Indian Ocean. In doing so, the conditions for pirates to operate on the high seas, near the crucial shipping routes, become more favourable. Despite the counter piracy successes – and consequently their declining chances – pirates are likely to remember the potential gains of hijacking ships. It would be a surprise if they would give up easy.
Where will the prepare, where will they hunt, what means will they use to get there? These questions need answering. So far, every other season has brought other ways of doing the pirate business. Every seasons, counter piracy forces have been ay more pressure closer to the point from where the pirates departed and are perhaps now closer than pro-active steps than ever before. Best management practices and vessel protection detachments will remain important. Naval patrols, near the shipping routes and close to the pirate camps will prevent the pirates to even get close to their targets. And through regional maritime capacity building and key leader engagement, regional and even local Somali maritime capabilities will grow more mature. Through contacts at sea the population can be convinced to denounce piracy and cease their support for it. All this effort is required to sustain the positive trends. It will be an interesting period ahead of us. But in the next few months, NATO Task Force 508 is increasingly well placed, together with the EU and CMF Task Forces and the independent deployers from China, Russia, Japan and India, to take the necessary next steps. To increase the pressure on the pirates even further and consequently ensure safe passage of trade oversea and access to ports.
So trade can become once more the engine behind development and stability and prosperity can return. As the fish, after the summer heat, off Somalia’s coast.
This article was posted by Neptune Maritime Security via facebook.com. MaritimeSecurity.Asia in cooperation with www.neptunemaritimesecurity.com