Plans for naval blockade of Somali coast to stop pirates
The naval blockade of Somali coast is in the works to prevent pirate ships from heading out to the sea and hijacking vessels. This measure was suggested in the wake of escalated pirate attacks on foreign ships off the coast of Somalia.
Allowing piracy to get loose can be very costly for many countries involved. Not only because the lives of crew members are being put in danger as the result of the attacks, but because tankers and cargo ships passing by Somali coast now have to make detours and stray off into deep sea to avoid pirates. This delays transportation and costs more, prompting companies to raise prices of oil and cargo products. Coincidentally, the price of oil soared when Somali pirates have captured Saudi Arabian tanker with 2 million barrels of oil on board. Oil prices are also predicted to hike up if route changes will become a common practice.
NATO is against the blockade while other countries are pondering the idea. Russia has even suggested attacking the strongholds of the pirates.
Meanwhile, the Hollywood-imposed stereotypes about pirates that many people hold are beginning to change. Recent events have shown that modern-day pirates walk around with rocket-propelled grenades, not parrots on their shoulder, and sail in maneuverable small boats rather than bulky three masted schooners. Modern-day pirates are also very high tech: they fakes distress calls and use GPS technology to track down prey ships. A far cry from the naive "Pirates of the Caribbean" image we are used to.
Shipping officials from around the world called Monday for a military blockade along Somalia's coast to intercept pirate vessels heading out to sea.
But NATO, which has four warships off the coast of Somalia, rejected a blockade.
Peter Swift, managing director of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, said stronger naval action - including aerial and aviation support - is necessary to battle rampant piracy in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia.
Some 20 tankers sail through the sea lane daily. But many tanker owners are considering a massive detour around southern Africa to avoid pirates, which will delay delivery and push costs up by 30 per cent, Swift said.
The association, whose members own 2,900 tankers or 75 per cent of the world's fleet, opposes attempts to arm merchant ships because it could escalate the violence and put crew members at even greater risk, he said.
"The other option is perhaps putting a blockade around Somalia and introducing the idea of intercepting vessels leaving Somalia rather than to try to protect the whole of the Gulf of Aden," Swift said.
Somali pirates have become increasingly brazen, seizing eight vessels in the past two weeks alone, including the Saudi supertanker loaded with $100 million US worth of crude oil.
A blockade along Somalia's 3,850-kilometre coastline would not be easy.
"But some intervention there may be effective," Swift told reporters on the sidelines of a shipping conference in Malaysia.
U.S. Gen. John Craddock, NATO's supreme allied commander, said Monday the alliance's mandate is solely to escort World Food Program ships to Somalia and to conduct anti-piracy patrols.
Asked what he thought of a Russian proposal to jointly attack the pirate strongholds, Craddock answered: "That's far beyond what I've been tasked to do."
Somalia, an impoverished country caught up in tribal wars and an Islamic insurgency, has had no functioning government since 1991. There have been 95 pirate attacks so far this year in Somali waters, with 39 ships hijacked.
Fifteen ships with nearly 300 crew are still in the hands of Somali pirates, who dock the hijacked vessels near the eastern and southern coast as they negotiate for ransom.
"Any action to prevent the pirates from heading out to sea is welcome," said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur. He said it was up to the international community to decide how they can deploy their forces for the blockade.