Somali piracy is expanding and there are fears that piracy may become attractive to others in poverty-stricken African countries. Is there a solution to this apparently insoluble problem? Someone perhaps better qualified than most says there is.
Former Commander-in-Chief of the Danish Navy and now head of the Danish Military College, Rear Admiral Nils Wang says part of the problem is a lack of awareness of the sea among people living inland, which includes a majority of the world’s population. Describing the problem at an Institute for Security Studies seminar in Pretoria earlier this week attended by Digital Journal, Admiral Wang said:
“The piracy problem is not just a problem between the ship industry and the pirates. The spill-over effect in my point of view would be a threat to stability in the whole East Africa region and that is why it should create a sense of urgency both in the UN framework and in the African Union framework.”
The frigate SAS Spioenkop would be part of any anti-piracy force sent to patrol the Indian Ocean.
In addition to this, the South African Navy has sent a frigate to cruise the Mozambique Channel, backed by surveillance aircraft from the South African Air Force. The channel allows the military forces, in which Mozambicans are also taking part, to block the route of pirates heading south, but it is clear this measure alone will not stop the expansion of piracy which has spread from Somalia to include Eritreans, Kenyans and others from the region. It is feared that Mozambicans and Madagascans could also join the pirates. Nonetheless, the Danish admiral feels that there is a solution, but not a simple one. He said:
“Number two, you need to address piracy in the exact same way as you address gang criminality. You need to have patrol cars on the street in order to disrupt mugging and whatever takes place on the street, that is parallel to the naval ships at sea that are doing the patrols to block the piracy.”
"You need the social worker to create alternatives to the power of the gang to create an alternative to being a pirate and that could be based on develop(ing) a fishing industry."
And you of course need to have the juridical system to wrap all this up, but I need to emphasise you cannot patrol yourself out of this problem and you cannot imprison yourself out of this problem. You can imprison all 5,000 pirates and there will still be coming new ones. So you need to use the whole palette of tools and not only to focus on one thing.”
He also tackled the issue of rising piracy, despite the fact that some 35 ships from numerous international navies and at least two alliances, the EU and NATO, are operating in an area the size of the continental United States. He did point out that more than 35 police cruises would be needed to police the US. However, he asked:
Admiral Wang of the Danish Fleet feels there are solutions to the problem of Somali piracy.
“Of course you have to identify whether the naval operations is effective or not. I would argue that even though criminality is still existing in most major cities you do not pull the police cars off the street for that reason. Of course, you need to have your naval ships doing their job out there because they are actually disrupting piracy in many places and those sailors who are saved from being taken hostage by pirates by a naval ship because they were at the right place at the right time are really grateful.”"So my statement is that the naval operations are effective because if they weren’t there the situation would be even worse."
It is clear that the Somali model of piracy, using hostage-taking as its main method and using community support to keep the “business” working, is here to stay, as a report in Digital Journal said earlier. Hampered by human rights concerns, modern navies cannot attack pirate bases and hang pirates as their predecessors two centuries ago were able to.
Ironically, concern for the human rights of pirates means human rights of seafarers will have to be in abeyance until the “full palette” of Admiral Wang has come into play and been seen to be effective. This will include giving the current pirates or those who plan to join them an alternative livelihood which does not include crime.
It will take many decades if all goes well.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com