Spotlight on piracy

Well I must say, what an exciting week it has been on the international maritime scene. Aside from being on the ship and as sick as a dog, I was spellbound with all the latest news on the Maersk Alabama. It was bit hard to decipher facts from fiction and over dramatization, but for the most part I think the story was pretty well relayed in the media, considering the fluidity of the situation.

I think we can safely say that a page has been turned on the story of piracy in the Horn of Africa region. Sending 4 eighteen year old in an open skiff, 400 miles from shore, armed with AK47, to take over an American crewed ship, carrying American cargo; one must say that the writing was on the wall as to what the outcome was going to be.

I think it is safe to say that from the pirates perspective, it was a total failure from the get go. Seems Capt Phillips of the Alabama certainly deserves a much needed rest after such a traumatic ordeal and congratulatory accolades to say the least. I cannot imagine the sensation the crew and him must have felt over the ordeal.

Although the outcome of the Maersk Alabama affair seemed certain – poking the big guy in the room, is bound to get a response – one must wonder if this will refocus the pirates efforts. We have seen that they can adapt their tactics to various conditions rather rapidly. Will they now escalate there “professionalism”. Convincing teenagers to attack “easy targets” can be done a few times, but when the risk of death increases, you are probably going to get a tougher pirate to undertake the task.

Up to now the fatalities and injuries at the hands of the pirates has been relatively low, the act of piracy has been conducted in a rather benign fashion. Capture – board a non hostile vessel, demand money, get money, release boat. One must wonder that with the decisive and, and somewhat predictable, actions of the Americans and the French military forces, how is that going to affect the other 250 or so hostages held on over 20 other vessels, and whose numbers seems to be surging upwards this week alone.

With the piracy issue being on the media top spot for well over a week, and appearance that the Obama administration is moving the topic up the importance scale, we might be close to seeing some decisive land based solution to get to the root of the problem. Of course this will open some old wounds and require much unpalatable military / diplomatic action on the ground in Somalia. But really, until the root cause is tackle, we are better be prepared for an escalation in tactics from both sides, meanwhile the seafarer’s job in the region gets quite a bit riskier.

Pictured above are the naval ships of Task Force 150 – NATO’s operation Atalanta.

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