PIRACY IN SOMALIA
The Rapidly Deteriorating Security Situation in Somalia and the Threat to US Interests
The increasing violence and continued growth of piracy off the coast of Somalia has
threatened international shipping in one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors and raised the awareness of maritime-based Islamist terrorism (Stevenson, 2010). Somali piracy threatens commercial shipping and poses a potentially significant threat to international peace and security. Pirates have threatened and seized many ships, contributing to a rise in shipping costs, insurance premiums, and impeded the delivery of food aid shipments. Controlling piracy should be an utmost priority for United States policymakers.
Somalia is slightly smaller than Texas and approximately the size of Afghanistan with a population of approximately 10 million. It is located on the coast of Africa, east of Ethiopia, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean (CIA FACTBOOK, 2012). It has recurring seasonal droughts with frequent dust storms over the eastern plains in the summer. The land is flat and tends to flood during the rainy season. The population majority is uneducated and by western standards primarily poor. The main sources of income are derived from exporting livestock, hides, fish, charcoal, and bananas. The average Somali only earns approximately 600.00 American dollars per year (CIA FACTBOOK, 2012). This makes the opportunity of Piracy an extremely lucrative one.
Webster’s dictionary defines piracy as “robbery or illegal violence at sea”. Piracy off the Somali coast has threatened international shipping since the beginning of Somalia's civil war in the early 1990s. The International Maritime Bureau reported only 22 pirate attacks the entire year of 2000 off the east coast of Somalia, rising to 108 in 2008, 216 in 2009, and 218 in 2010, and 275 in 2011. As of the March 2012, 14 vessels and 199 hostages are being held directly due to Somali Pirates (IMCC, 2012). Although the number of events of Somali Pirate associated vessel hijackings appears to be declining, the impact of piracy and cost associated with it are increasing.
The Department of Transportation reported in a case study in 2010 that over 80 percent of international maritime trade moving through the Gulf of Aden is with Europe. Although European economies are currently more directly affected by the attacks, the United States is also affected by piracy. Piracy poses significant burdens on governments and the maritime industry as they take steps to protect themselves from being attacked or hijacked (DOT, nd).
For example, In February 2011, USA Today reported that four American civilian citizens were shot by pirates in the Gulf of Oman. Four U.S warships were deployed and Special Operation Soldiers attempted the evacuation of the hostages but all four were killed after an RPG attack on US vessels and small arms fire were heard. This may have been in retaliation of a court sentence from a New...