Sunday, March 30, 2014

The importance of security practices in passing Somali Basin

Don Sylvester R. Rabadon

Noe Galimba

Efren C. Pimentel
Jorry M. Ogoy
Jerwin C. Quebral

Gulf of Aden: The playing grounds of  Somalian pirates. Map courtesy of 


Somalia is a Muslim country located in the Horn of Africa. It has a population of approximately 10 million. Most of its people are descendants of ethnic Somali, which from the slave back from history in Africa sell by the Arabs. Somalia has an informal type of economic status. Their source of living mostly came from livestock and agriculture. Their climate is usually hot; they have the arid condition of climate. Drought and war are usually happens in Somalia. Poverty is pushing for some Somali to get involved in piracy. For better understanding of piracy we need to know why is it that Somali citizen involved themselves in piracy, why most ships used to transit in Somali coast, threats and possible accidents might happen in passing Somali waters, security measures implemented, and effects of piracy in our society.

During early 1980’s, there was a civil war outbreak in Somalia. The Somali administration of fisheries and coastal development agency, promotes a development program in agriculture and fisheries. In order to continue this program Somalia accepted foreign funds and investments, which led to foreign fishermen to have their fishing business in Somalia. Due to continuing civil war the central government of Somalia bared down in the year 1991, causing to dispersal of its navy forces.

Leaving the Somali waters unattended, foreign fishing boats started to abuse fishing such as European, Asian, African ships. During this time Somalia suffered an outbreak of major water pollution from toxic substances dumped by huge shipping industry. Different illnesses and diseases suffered by most Somali people. Local fishermen tried to protect their source of living they started to collect ransom money by hijacking merchant ships. Even though they faced risk doing this, they find it right for their survival. Pirates used to think that ransom money they demanded are just taxes from making business in Somalia.

This principle led them into organized piracy activities. Some other government officials in Somalia have seen that they can use the money in supporting their nation such as funding for their involvement in war. Somali pirates have created a vast attack through centuries past mostly in merchant ships. They demanded ransom increasingly that creates headaches to huge businesses in merchant ships.

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Somalia is notorious for piracy particularly in the Gulf of Aden, but why is it most Somali get involved themselves in piracy? Somali pirates are originated from Puntland, a north-east region and one of the poorest places in Somalia. Evidently, Somali pirates are tangled in this activity just to survive poverty. They must find a way to meet their daily necessities, and they think hijacking merchant ships is the best solution for that. Long centuries had passed, the Somali coast was being abused, and their fishing industry is most likely stolen from them by other foreign fishermen.

Somali water is rich in resources in terms of fish. Tuna fish are abundant in this area, that’s why fishing industry in neighboring countries illegally operates their business inside Somali fishing territory. Somalia’s absence of coastguard forces had caused their fishing industry abused. Yemeni fishermen are the most illegally fishing in Somali coastline. Trying to defend their living, local Somali fishermen begun to take action, but eventually they fell into piracy activities. From good purpose, they created an act which is against the law.

Since the civil war in Somalia, their community is suffering long term political crisis until now. Everywhere there is violence happening, war, murder, kidnapping that creates enormous killings inside the country. There is no leader that can bind them. Most provinces are declaring themselves as autonomous region. There are vicious Somali personality even political officials foreseen the benefits from ransomed money they could acquire from piracy. For them piracy is just business. It can be used to collect funds that can support their internal crisis, even unto war they involved from other neighboring countries. From small time piracy, Somali pirates had created a huge and organized group of pirates. There number increased, fire power and tactics are also developed. As time goes by, the rate of piracy activities in Somali coastline upsurges, that catches the attention of maritime organization and international community. The number of attacks and victims escalated, as well as the cost of ransom money they demanded also got higher. We have conducted an interview from 2nd Engineer. Pamplona, one of our questions was why is it that most merchant ships used to pass Somali waters? According to him, some companies are taking the route in Somalia because of the high rate of cost in passing Suez Canal which is in Egypt. In order to lessen their expenses they prefer Somalia, even it is too risky. Most ships which travelling to America, Canada, are passing Somalia. Geographically speaking, the location of route in Somalia is the nearest and accessible way going to USA. Merchant ships are usually loaded such as cargos, oil, and other commodity that are very useful. So, in order for the company to meet the deadline of product delivery they use to pass Somali coast.

The threats in Somali waters are aggressively alarming. Possible hijacking and accident may happen anytime in Somali water. Nowadays, Somali pirates operate in a very sophisticated way. They are using mother ships for them to uneasily be detected. Based on some reports, Somali pirates usually hijacked fishing vessels to make it their mother ships. They are using it as their post of attacking to their spotted target. Piracy activities in Somalia can cause a lot of trouble. One of our interviewee Mr. Michael Gajete, a seafarer, told us that every time their ship passed Somali basin they sensed very nervous. They didn’t know what is waiting to them inside. Their Captain are always aware in Somali area, they always do their security routine. Putting barbed wires in the upper part of the ship hull are regularly done, to ensure that it would be difficult to pirates to go on-board. As soon as they’ve already passed the Somali territory, they felt safe and lucky that nothing has happen to them.

Fleeting Somali Ocean has a great possibility to encounter pirates, which can create a catastrophe kind of accidents. Somali pirates are now using advanced fire power in hijacking which might create major damage to ship. To name a few victims, MV Takayama, a Japanese tanker was shot by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), which causes a massive oil spill. Piracy can be a root of losing property if ships happen to sunk, as well as loss of human life. That is why piracy can be compared to another tactic of terrorism.

Maritime organization and United Nations promotes anti-piracy campaign. Pirates are usually operates using skiff with a high speed engine with upgraded lethal fire power, capable enough to reach target vessel, even 50-100 miles from the shore. They can locate a target once it arrives in their bounds, using global positioning system (GPS). According to some information at present time organized pirates has already equipped with high tech devices and knowledgeable members to undergo hijacking. Some pirate’s members are ex-military or ex-coastguards members. Pirates most motivation to do hijacking is money. They did not harm usually their captives as long as the involved companies must respond their demands or ransom money.

Somalia coastline is belongs to high risk area in seafaring trade. Maritime security organization promotes and requires that all ship’s Master and crew must know security routines and drills during transit in this area. Drills are regularly done to ensure that all crews are knowledgeable to their duties and responsibilities during an emergency situation. All ship operators, companies, and ship masters before leaving ports must assess their route in transiting high risk areas. They need to know the latest information or pirate’s activity in that area. The main objective of doing drills to make sure that the safety of all crews must be considered. Typically pirates targeted the ships bridge to certainly control the vessel.

Security drills and routines are done to avoid, delay, and deter the pirates attack. Placing razor wires as barriers on the top hull of the ship can prevent pirates to come on board easily. Most ships have fire hoses installed around the ship, driven by a high pressure water pump to dissuade attempt attack. Other ship also used mannequins posing as arm guards to divert the attention of pirates. Old warnings in passing Somali water was ship must be 100 miles from the shore, but due to advanced equipment of pirates in terms of speed, presently all ships must be at least 200 miles off shore of Somalia. Maritime organization of anti-piracy encourages that all ships transiting Somali waters must advance their speed at over 18 knots. Observations tell that speed and good maneuvering is very effective against hijacking. It is very important also to enhance the Watchkeeping of all crew in high risk areas. If pirates take over the ship it is important to cooperate and remain calm, no opposition to pirates, because they might be aggressive and irritated that can cause injury to the crew.

Anti-piracy in the coast of Somalia, promotes that full presence of naval military forces must monitor the safety status of that area. Other affected countries also send a naval force to help against piracy. France stand against piracy in Somalia become strong after the incident of hijacking of MV Le Ponant, by sending their naval forces and arrested six pirates. Some other merchant ship companies hire private armed guards to defend their businesses. Government action is said to be effective, although piracy activities is still rampant. For instance the hijacking of MV Maersk Alabama in 2008 has test the government response to emergency. Naval forces have able to rescue all crew including the ship Master Capt. Richard Phillips after being held hostage by pirates. Three pirates were killed during the operation, and managed the arrest of Abduwali Muse and were sentenced to 33 years imprisonment in May 2010.

Somali piracy increasing activities and victims has brings economic effects to the world of business trade around the globe. Presently, the cost of shipping goods and products increased due to the risk. Insurance premium for merchant vessel in high risk areas also rises. Most ships trying to cut their cost of expenses avert their shipping transit in other safe route, but this will add to their expenses in oil consumption and duration of shipping. Delayed delivery of products and goods is a waste of money for investors. It can cause major goods and products inflation of prices in world trade market. Such example for this is the black gold or oil, the irregular price hike of oil could be brought to the consumers around the world. Shortage of important commodities in the stock market might affect the economic trend of a country.

In 2004, tsunami incident hit in Somalia and was triggered the poverty status of the country. Damaged infrastructures, fishing vessels, and other source of living brought famine on some areas. World Food Program (WFD), aided the people in Somalia, but due to the risk and cost of piracy the support was temporarily deferred. Right now the presence of naval forces neutrally controls some areas in Somali water, but still the groups of pirates are active.

Piracy activities in Somalia was a long term problem, that seafaring is facing. We cannot solve this thing right away, but in order to prevent accident and hijacking extra efforts on security measures must be observed. Precautionary measures are very important to all seafarers, if we disregard this, it might cause accident and even loss of life. Safety awareness of all crew must always be considered. Piracy is not just a problem, but it is a disastrous act to all. The effects are all connected to the human lives from our daily necessities and to economic stability of a country. Piracy solution must start inside Somalia, economic opportunities need to develop and be available to all Somali citizen. Somali pirates are pushing themselves into the crime because of poverty, if only they have a job, piracy will be stopped. Somalia needs a leader and strong government that can unite them. International community response to piracy makes some modification in terms of security, for safe travelling of goods in Somali waters. Large military presence and action is the best strategy to stop piracy.