Why Piracy off the Coast of Somalia Matters.
In this photo taken Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, masked Somali pirate Abdi Ali stands near a Taiwanese fishing vessel that washed up on shore after the pirates were paid a ransom and released the crew, in the once-bustling pirate den of Hobyo, Somalia.
Ninety per cent of the world’s commerce travels by sea, as does more than half of the world’s petroleum. Many of the ships carrying goods and oil travel through the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia. By 2009, it threatened the free flow of international commerce and energy supplies, which threatened the world economy. This was in addition to the threat posed to World Food Program shipping which was delivering vital food aid to the vulnerable Somali population. While pirates off the coast of Somalia have been largely unsuccessful since mid-2012, they have already done great damage, and still hold hostage approximately 50 innocent seafarers. While they no longer have any seaworthy ships in captivity, several of the ships they had hijacked have since sunk or run aground, posing an environmental hazard, contaminating the seas, reefs, and coastal areas with dangerous pollutants.
Since September of 2012, Somalia has had a new government in place, which has included putting an end to piracy emanating from its coast line as one of its priorities. However, the government is grappling with many different issues, and has yet to field an effective Navy or Coast Guard. When piracy was at its peak, it attracted many young men with its false promise of easy money. Now, with piracy for the moment suppressed, the fledgling government of Somalia still needs to find gainful employment for former or would-be pirates.
One successful aspect of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia has been support for prosecutions around the world. As of early 2014, more than 1400 pirates were in custody, including those already convicted and those awaiting trial. As a humanitarian gesture, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes has set up a repatriation program which allows convicted pirates to serve their sentences back in Somalia.