In late September, three speedboats, manned by Somali pirates hijacked a Ukrainian cargo ship loaded with tanks, ammunition, and other military supplies off the coast of Somalia. More than a month later, negotiations for the hostages and ship have not reached a conclusion. Unfortunately, the capture of the Ukrainian ship is not an isolated event. Somali pirates operate along what is widely considered one of the most dangerous coastlines in the world, and they have hijacked more than 75 vessels in the past year. Somali officials estimate the pirates have earned approximately $50 million dollars per year from ransoms and stolen goods. UN officials believe the figure is in excess of $100 million.
While starvation and constant violence are realities for many Somalis, business is booming for Somali pirates. “All you need is three guys and a little boat, and the next day you’re millionaires,” said former Somali naval captain, Abdullahi Omar Qawden. Pirates have taken control of towns along the Somali coast. They own the largest and newest homes, drive luxury automobiles, and even operate a number of businesses including hotels. This lifestyle, juxtaposed against the dire situation of most Somalis, has proved tempting for many Somalis, swelling the ranks of the pirates.
Somali officials at the national and local level claim that they are powerless to stop the pirates. Nevertheless, many government officials are suspected of working with the pirates or accepting bribes. “Believe me, a lot of our money has gone straight into the government’s pockets,” confirmed Ismail Eid, a Somali prisoner currently serving a 15 year sentence for piracy. Warships from Russia, the United States, NATO, the European Union, and India have been deployed in the past month in hopes of increasing efforts to protect commercial vessels and eliminate piracy.
For further information please click here.