Anton Goryunov writes from Mogadishu: In case you’re wondering whether Somali pirates have gone all soft and cuddly and stopped hijacking cargo ships off the African coast, let me disappoint you: they’re still at it – with remarkable gusto. Yep, the boys in fishing boats with guns are showing two fingers to the whole world, capturing ships and taking their crews hostage. This year they’ve managed to hijack dozens of vessels of different sizes, even though there’s supposedly an armada of military ships patrolling the high seas, on the look-out for any signs of trouble. Something like 500 hostages are awaiting their release while their shipping companies and governments haggle over the size of their ransom.
So the question that raises its ugly head is this: what’s the point of having all those fancy navies if they can’t sort out the Somali pirates? It’s really embarrassing to listen to Western military spokesmen talking about the ‘tactical brilliance’ of the pirates. They even have the nerve to say that these Somali fishermen turned buccaneers are well armed and well trained. It sounds pathetic, it really does. Are we to assume that our brave naval forces are not very well armed and not very well trained, compared to the pirates? If so, then we must have been throwing a lot of money away for years.
The pirates are armed with guns and grenade launchers, we are told by various experts and officials. In fact, nobody has ever seen them use a grenade launcher, so we might as well conclude that they carry them just to frighten easily impressionable sailors on war ships.
It is also a huge an embarrassment that Somali pirates can so easily hijack large cargo ships, with whole crews surrendering at the first sight of the ‘mighty’ inflatable dinghies appearing on the horizon. Four years ago a group of Somali buccaneers hijacked a Ukrainian cargo ship carrying more than 30 Russian-made T-72 tanks, a large consignment of rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft guns and ammunition. This was the ultimate in humiliation: a ship with weapons on board was taken over by a bunch of pirates brandishing guns. Negotiations on the release of the cargo and the crew had eventually concluded in the payment of a huge ransom.
So what’s the point of developed nations spending billions on their armed forces and having all that hi-tech weaponry and hardware if small groups of pirates can easily attack ships that, for some unknown reason, give themselves up the moment a gunshot is fired in the air in anger, or even in a good natured way?
Rampant piracy off the coast of Africa demonstrates total lack of any co-ordination between the navies of the developed world. Not to mention that many Western servicemen have obviously lost their will to fight and stick to watching the buccaneers do their thing. As it happened with the British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler who were hijacked more than a year ago while the crew of a Royal Navy ship watched the whole thing without interfering.
The military would make us think that it is very difficult to protect ships, as there are so many of them out in sea. But, excuse me, who needs a military convoy following every ship? Isn’t the whole point of having an effective military machine to provide decent communications and tracking systems, and a rapid response that could reach the area where the pirates are attacking the targets quickly, blowing them out of the water.
It is obscene to think that modern armed forces are incapable of scaring off pirates. And it is especially embarrassing that the hijackings of ships off the African coast take place along one of the most important sea routes, leading from the Persian Gulf to the US. We were told on many occasions in the past that major shipping routes are closely protected by the military and that every big and medium cargo ship has a satellite tracking system on board, allowing it to be monitored from above at any given moment? Would we be right to assume that these satellites are tracking ships just for the fun of it?
Anyway, here’s the deal: why not ask the Somali pirates to start patrolling the waters off the coast of Africa and beyond and maybe even sort out those pesky insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. And who knows, maybe at some point the United Nations might turn them into peacekeepers and send them to hot spots around the world.
Come to think of it, we might even ask the pirates to sort out the bankers who have caused so much misery for everyone stealing all that cash and hiding it in off shore havens. Who knows, we might get some of that money back.
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