Modern-day piracy

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Here’s a situation I’m not even sure how to begin approaching—piracy off the coast of Somalia. What could be done? Where can we even start? This royal mess includes gangs of pirate ships hijacking at ever-increasing rates for ever-increasing ransom amounts. This is all fueled by the lack of any legitimate, sustained government in-land, and a non-existent economy, only to be replaced by a new type of economy catering specifically to the pirating industry.

This country is a place where sending anyone, from a New York Times journalist to a UN peacekeeper, is virtually a death sentence. Lawlessness has prevailed and piracy has become almost a normal means for getting ahead in life (BBC). The sad part is that this may even be expected in a “post-failed state” facing such a proliferation of fighting and famine that the “getting ahead in life” plans are few and far between—you either struggle in poverty as a victim, or struggle in wealth as the perpetrator. Why work for almost non-existent wages with government security forces when you can gain a fortune out at sea?

Any hope for peaceful solutions has walked the plank, pushed by ex-fisherman, ex-militiamen and "technical" experts who have convened in 10 gangs (there was only one in 2005) that plague the Gulf of Aden (one of the world’s busiest shipping ways), searching for the highest ransom (Maclean’s). And considering the ransoms have grown to an estimated $25 to $30 million this year, the practice is highly lucrative (NYT). This may be the reason why eight ships have been hijacked in the past two weeks, adding to the 92 ships already taken this year alone (NYT).

Under these circumstances, where the situation is volatile both on land and at sea (the two areas feeding off each other like sharks), where do we begin to promote conflict resolution and peace? What’s more, how do we stop this practice from being spread to other regions as they see evidence of high-value work?


Gatehouse, Jonathon. “Blackbeard Still Lives.” Maclean’s 121(41) 20 October 2008: p38-40.

Hunter, Robyn. “Somali pirates living the high life.” BBC News online:

Kumar, Hari and Alan Cowell. “Indian Navy Tells of Sinking Pirate Ship.” The New York Times Online, 20 November 2008:


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