Threats from Piracy off Coast of Somalia
Why Piracy off the Coast of Somalia Matters.
A ship loaded with urgently needed World Food Program supplies that has been hijacked by Somali pirates.
Recent attacks by pirates operating from the waters adjoining the Horn of Africa region, including on United States-flagged commercial vessels, threaten international security
, the global economy
, and American citizens and commercial interests
. These attacks have hindered both U.S. and U.S.-supported UN World Food Program transports delivering aid to some of the world's most vulnerable populations.
This piracy has endangered innocent mariners from countries around the world and jeopardized commercial shipping interests. The attacks also pose an environmental hazard as ships may be damaged or purposely run aground by the pirates, thereby contaminating the seas, reefs, and coastal areas with dangerous pollutants.
The Spreading Threat.
The piracy in this region occurred originally off of Somalia's east coast for several years. In August 2009, the pirates extended their attacks to the Gulf of Aden, between Yemen and Somalia's north coast. Subsequently, the pirates have been ranging farther out to sea -- up to 600 miles -- and now affect over 1 million square miles (2.59 million square kilometers) in the Gulf of Aden, the west Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea.
Origins and the Local Impact.
Somali civilians collect much-needed food from small boats that offloaded it from a freighter chartered by the World Food Program.
Much of the piracy off the coast of Somalia was born out of that country's economic, social, and political strife that began in the mid-1990s. With the collapse of a central government, some Somali fishermen took it upon themselves to protect Somali waters from over-fishing and illegal dumping by foreigners. These vigilante actions led to piracy as a means to supplement livelihoods. Emboldened by the absence of an effective ruling authority, the piracy that stems from the coast of Somalia has been transformed into a highly organized and lucrative criminal business for its leaders and enablers. It has proved to be an attractive, though risky, alternative for some impoverished young men who have few if any options to a legal livelihood. That said, pirates are criminals motivated by a desire for quick money. Their actions hinder Somalia's chances of recovering from its civil war and building a sustainable future. Piracy, a form of organized crime, makes Somalia less attractive as a place in which to invest and create employment.