Roger Middleton: Stopping these attacks will be difficult - but the pirates may regret taking on America

Analysis

Share
Related Topics

Since the upsurge in attacks at the end of last year, more than a dozen countries have sent ships to the Gulf of Aden, patrols have thwarted several attacks, and the beginning of 2009 has been much quieter.

But the navies have fallen victim to their own success. The effectiveness of the patrols in the Gulf of Aden seem to have caused the pirates to refocus their attentions on the western Indian ocean.

One other factor lies behind the recent successes of the pirates: the weather. Very bad at the beginning of the year, it has now improved enough for pirates to get alongside targets with ease.

Now hijackers are threatening an area of up to two million square miles, they are much harder to locate. European, US and other navies are still overwhelmingly concentrated off Somalia's northern shore, hours or even days journey away from the recent attacks.

Although the pickings may be slimmer and the sea more dangerous in the ocean the pirates have found an easier place to work and the western Indian Ocean may soon be as notorious as the Gulf of Aden.

Attacks in the ocean mean ships going nowhere near the Gulf of Aden are under threat. Even the Seychelles is seeing ships seized in its waters, which could have a devastating impact on its tourism industry. Ships will need to maintain full speed and anti-piracy watches for much longer times and over greater distances, adding considerable costs.

The naval forces will have to find a way to extend some degree of protection over the Indian Ocean without compromising safety in the Gulf of Aden. The easiest way to do this might be to increase patrols by aircraft that can warn ships and even try to scare away pirates. But it will be very difficult, and perhaps impossible, to provide even the limited protection available in the Gulf across the millions of miles of sea now threatened.

Some say that the clause in UN Security Council resolution 1851 allowing militaries to pursue pirates into Somalia may now begin to be used. But this is unlikely to counter the massive financial motivations young men have to become pirates, and as Somalia lacks well defined pirate dens, it will be difficult to find targets.

America has been reminded that Somali piracy is not just a threat to its interests in the free movement of trade but that American citizens can also fall victim to these crimes. The moves against piracy were some of the last actions of the Bush presidency, and it is now likely that the new administration will intensify action against the pirates of Somalia. If so, those pirates who boarded the Alabama may not be the only ones to regret their daring.



Roger Middleton is the author of a major Chatham House report on piracy

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; VMWare, Windows; Disley; £40k

£40000 per annum + benefits: Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; V...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Australian cricketer Phil Hughes has died aged 25  

Phillip Hughes: A sensational man, both on and off the pitch

Angus Fraser
Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party  

If people voted for policies, the Green Party would win the next election

Lee Williams
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?