How Should the International Community Respond to Piracy at Sea?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
April 10, 2009
Merchant vessel Al Marjan Following Release From Pirates Off Somali Coast

Piracy is a growing problem for the international community. UN Security Council resolution 1851 expanded the range of actions the international community could take to stem piracy near Somalia and urged for greater coordination between countries and international organizations on the issue.

Regarding the recent attack involving the Maersk ship, Secretary Clinton said, “These people are nothing more than criminals. ...Piracy may be a centuries-old crime, but we are working to bring an appropriate 21st century response.”

How should the international community respond to piracy at sea?



California, USA
April 14, 2009

Paul in California writes:

Dear State Department,

Congratulations to the U.S. Navy for saving the life of Captain Phillips!!

Here's a simple suggestion that will stop Somalian pirates immediately: Convoys.

Convoys worked well in World War II against sophisticated Axis submarines. They should surely work against rag tag pirates in skiffs and speedboats.

Here's what we can do:

1) Request all ships traveling to or from the Suez Canal and up or down the African Coast to rendezvous at predetermined assembly points out of harm's way that are protected by Naval warships. Ships from all nations can and should be encouraged to participate.

2) Organize the ships into one or two convoys each day in each direction. Each convoy will be escorted by two to four naval ships with helicopters. Navies from all nations can and should be encouraged to participate.

3) Put out the word all over Somalia via airborne leaflets and radio that If any radar contact is made by the convoy of approaching vessels helicopters will be dispatched. The approaching vessels will be warned to stay away with shots across their bows.

4) If any attempts are made by pirates to attack or board any convoy ships the pirates will be disabled or sunk by the helicopters.

We as a nation, and the entire civilized world, have to do whatever it takes to stop the criminals in Somalia from hijacking civilian shipping and kidnapping innocent civilians. Especially now that the pirates are threatening to kill Americans and French hostages from now on simply because we decided to defend ourselves. It is our duty to defend ourselves from criminals.

This is war now. The pirates have declared war on us! I have read article after article and opinion after opinion and nowhere have I even heard the word convoy mentioned. Why can't we do this?? Is there any valid reason why this wouldn't be effective?

Sincerely yours,

Paul S.

April 15, 2009

Patanjali in Australia writes:

Patrolling with warships IS very expensive.

I suggest that each ship could carry enough UN armed troops to be an effective deterrent.

They only need to be on board for that part of the journey passing through the danger area. To that end, there would need to be a warship at each end of the shipping lanes through the area. The UN troops would transfer from a warship before a ship enters the danger area and transfer to a warship after the ship has left the area. There may only need to be two or three warships required in total.

Of course, there would have to be clear rules of engagement, though a couple of warning messages, warning shots then blowing them out of the water should provide a reasonable escalation path.

It would not require many troops with a range of suitable weopons to repel small pirate boats. However, there are two foreseeable ways the pirates can escalate the situation:

a. Use larger boats with significant and far-reaching firepower.
This may require larger, appropriately equipped UN teams, or
Provide rapid-deployment aerial support (jet or helicopter), either from the forementioned warships, or specially equipped warships within the area.
Because there would be less larger boats, they would probably be easier to track by satellite and thus easier to intercept earlier.
Pirates may just use more smaller boats on each hijack attempt, but with enough long-range weaponry and minimal increase in troops should prove more than enough.

b. Take hostages on the piracy attemps. With small piracy boats, sharpshooters in the UN teams may be able to handle it, but less open pirate boats may be be more difficult.

Patricia S.
New York, USA
April 15, 2009

Patricia S. in New York writes:

Great job Navy Seals.

April 15, 2009

Jerry in Georgia writes:

Partner with other nations to temporarily rescind the non armament ban on commercial shipping in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean area. Allow cargo ships and freighters to have their own surprises waiting for the next attempts by Somali Pirates to hijack vessels. Station a few U.S. Navy Submarines in the waters off the Somali coast to monitor situations and to surface to take action at any signs of pending attacks.

Perhaps for a period of time, place groups of U.S. Navy Seals on board American flagged cargo ships and freighters in these waters to take definitive preventative actions at the first signs of an impending attack or hijacking.

Florida, USA
April 15, 2009

Tom in Florida writes:

Allow the shipping companies to hire armed security guards that are stationed aboard the vessels. Without the ability to fight back, they are literally just sitting ducks. Now that the Somali pirates have vowed to kill American and French nationals on contact, the stakes are simply too high for us to ignore this problem anymore.

North Carolina, USA
April 15, 2009

Rich in North Carolina writes:

I find these modern day pirates to lack codes and any sense of style. I think shipping companies should give me funding for a group in which I, my pirate bird and fellow pirate purists go out and hunt these modern day pirates that give pirates a bad name. I would sink there ships (in full pirate getup) with my cannon balls and make any survivors walk the plank into shark infested waters. Best of all it would be effective because I wouldn't have to adhear to all the "rules and regulations" that cause our Navy to be so ineffective in these kinds of situations.

Texas, USA
April 15, 2009

Brian in Texas writes:

Send in the Marines to occupy the entire coastline of Somalia. Then sell the land to luxury resort speculators. Somali pirates can get jobs at the hotels as porters.

Tennessee, USA
April 15, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

How do you destroy a Capitalist baised country?

Cost it money!!!...does anyone realize how much this operation cost?

Do not take me wrong. I'm all for Old Testament time for ANYONE who hurts, maims, kidnaps or threatens ANY AMERICAN CITIZEN without provocation anywhere in this during the Nixon era...but, this is an avoidable circumstance which can be handled by Private Contractors and IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE FREIGHT LINES...not the U.S. Citizen.

How do we keep paying for: Natural disasters, unemployment due to unfair international trade practices involving Free Trade agreements, unprosecuted banking fraud Barons who put well over a million U.S. citizen on the street, have declared wars, International Competition which is turning toward protectionism, Russia new this. How do we keep printing money to cover it all? Where does it come from and where will it end?

If there are not going to be any changes in International Law to permit the use of private contractor for Security purposes, then what is the overview and objective? Either that, or simply go after them and eliminate the problem. It should not be that difficult since even the Free Press can garner an interview from their leadership base and knows where they collect.

Eliminate the problem militarily or hire personal who will? Does anyone honestly think any Nation will care if they perish?

There is a time to STOP the Politics and take action -- this is one of them.

Nice work by the way....

April 15, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Jon in Texas -- Although I liked your idea very much, I disagree on a theoretical basis. We cannot allow to these gangs of rebels to determine our lives and freedom.

You see, Jon, if we adopt your sharp (indeed) idea it's like accepting the fact that next time we cannot travel to London, unless the "terrorists" give us the "Visa" to do so, we won't be able to go shopping, unless the "parking robbers" allow us to do so, or we will never be able to enforce the law without taking "military" action in order to do so. But then, WE -- Free World -- lose and they win. I don't know if I made my point clear. It's a bit theoretical!

In fact, the situation in Somalia has nothing to do with WW2. Back then, we certainly had to face a war. Today in Aden we have to deal with just some hundreds of "idiots", as Eric in NM perfectly described.
Will we give the chance to a little number of anarchists to make decisions concerning our lives, rising our costs and humiliating our values? No! We have to take measures in order to offer the world a permanent solution. Convoys are not a permanent solution and it costs a lot.

However, your idea (let's call it "pilot escort" -- exactly in the same way vessels use "pilots" to get through a canal) is fine, especially if you "marry" it with Joe's in TN suggestion. We can create "terminal stations", where ships can hire professional armed units from any of the reputable companies as Dyncorp and Blackwater U.S.A. It would be cheaper in the long run, especially in lowering insurance rates per vessel. When they pass the "bad" waters, they leave the private security personnel to the next "terminal (security) station" and continue their route.

Of course, again, we do not have a permanent solution, but I liked the idea, for now, of the "pilot basis" on a "private basis". Let's face the truth, we cannot have half of the NATO war ships in Aden waters for ever.

The most needed is a diplomatic/political solution, or even a military one. But we need a PERMANENT, cost efficiently democratic solution that won't hurt our dedication to FREEDOM, by sacrificing our values.
So, the question is what can we do towards a PERMANENT PERSPECTIVE?

P.S. @ some "Rambos" in the "topic room":

Guys, it's not a game or a movie. Otherwise, we would not have such a big problem. U.S. Navy and NATO forces are doing a great professional job. If you think you could do it better proceed with your applications for a DoD position.

Colorado, USA
April 15, 2009

Alex in Colorado writes:

Put SWAT/Seal Teams on most of the vessels. When attacked, kill the pirates! Years ago, the FBI solved the car-jacking problem in the District of Columbia by sending a number of undercover agents out in cars. When a couple of hijack attempts were tried against agents and the assailants were shot, the activity died. This is a simple solution to a simple problem.

North Carolina, USA
April 15, 2009

Chuck in North Carolina writes:

My son's ship (Maersk line) left Norfolk last night en route to Dubai and Colombo via the Gulf of Aden. My wife and I are extremely concerned but trust that the Obama administration will take appropriate measures to ensure his safety. My suggestion would be, among others, to deploy contingents of Marines on merchant ships between Djibouti and Dubai and one or more aircraft carriers to provide both air reconnaissance and armed intervention as needed, i.e., sink the pirates' skiffs and mother ships. If in recent decades there were a legitimate use of our military might, it would be to protect American lives and interests on the high seas.

North Carolina, USA
April 15, 2009

Howard in North Carolina writes:

dear lady secretary. piracy situation why not build PT boats,(world war II style) keep them simple don't over engineer them, plywood. rent them out to the shipping companies. make them longrange, they could cruise with the ships. got the idea truly howard

Claude A.
Nebraska, USA
April 15, 2009

Claude A. in Nebraska writes:

What should the International Community do? Sit around and wait and see what the United States will do! After-all, WE'RE part of that International Community. Other World Leaders are looking to OUR Leader to provide the LEADERSHIP he's expecting them to provide! We've got the biggest Navy! By millitary ettiquette, whoever commands the biggest force is expected to take command--which is why Eisenhower commanded D-Day and why the Bush Administration insisted Americans be in charge in Iraq. Failure of the mighty to take command is seen as weakness and a serious lack of resolve, some one who cannot be trusted or depended upon--somebody the rest of the world should best ignore. And they WILL be ignored. Except that the enemy will single them out for extra heavy attacks, which is what we see happenning.

Madame Secretary, what YOU should do is tour a few Los Angeles-class submarines and chat with the skipper and crew. Just ONE of these submarines could send EVERY pirate mother ship to the bottom and cruise home with a broom tied to her periscope (to announce a clean sweep). Every skipper will tell you his boat can do it and every crew member will exhude the same confidance THEY can do it! All they need is an order from the Commander in Chief. That's the difference between the U. S. Navy and the Pirates.

Massachusetts, USA
April 15, 2009

Jean-Baptiste in Massachusetts writes:

First step: U.N. to declare Somalia a "No State"country.

Second Step: A coalition of all countries that are U.N. members;

Step three: As the Somalia's beach has 1800 miles long all countries owners of warships should secure the beach with an average of 100 miles by country participating in the operation (U.S.A, China, Russia, France, South Africa, etc..)

Step four:Erythrea, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Angola,etc...should invad Somalia by land and clean up inside.

The operation should be for a short time,very fast done.

The Somalia's governmnt in Kenya should be then be installed on power by U.N.

Remember, since Siad Barre left the power Somalia is like a jungle. Is a shame for the international community. Somalia is no longer a STATE. U.N. needs to act now.

Massachusetts, USA
April 15, 2009

Abdi in Massachusetts writes:

It's fundemental to understand what has forced this people to chase after ships in the high seas. Somalia has no functioning government since the collapse of the former regime General Siyad Barre. After the collapse of that administration, the world has deepened the civil war in Somalia. The world has supported the destruction of Somalia and Somalis didn't understand it. In consequences, this young pirates has born after the collapse of the state of Somalia. They are the product of the civil war.They don't know the meaning of government but they respect clans.

There are many ways that pirates can be stopped:

1- Support the establishment of Somali government which can regain the control of the country.

2- Hire these kids as a Somali Navy and let them protect their ocean.

3- Inform Somali elders the consequences this can bring in the land and how it could hurt the innocent people live in that country. so, every tribe will restrain their kids. Because this will cause inflation or no international ships will dare to go to the Somali ports. I forcast famine afterwards.

4- Using a force shouldn't be an option as long as the pirates are not killing the crew of the ships.

5- It's cheaper to reinstall Somali government than sending multinational warships.

Massachusetts, USA
April 15, 2009

Leslie in Massachusetts writes:

1. enforce a no boat zone 3 miles around the region. No boats without AIS and documentation should be blown out of the water outside the No Boat Zone

2. send in the the Seals and have them surround the towns where the pirates live

3. give a 24 hour window for innocent civilians to leave

4. completley level these towns

We have international law behind us. Freedom must be defended and collateral losses of lives is the cost of freedom.

April 16, 2009

Markos in Mexico writes:

smoke em out like bush said

Texas, USA
April 16, 2009

Glen in Texas writes:

Unlike a humanitarian situation, this is largely a mercantile issue that does not require intervention without compensation by the beneficiaries.

Work, in coordination with the UN, to have an international solution to the issue.

1. Under the aegis of the UN, form an international naval task force.
2. Participation should be amongst any country who wishes to participate (U.S., Canada, Russia, China, France, etc...).
3. The task force would establish a convoy schedule to escort ships through the Gulf of Aden with armed escorts.
4. Shipping companies and insurance underwriters would pay the U.N. a reasonable amount for each trip.
5. Each participating country would receive a ratable credit for a percentage of any remitted fees against their UN dues.

Washington, USA
April 16, 2009

Duncan in Washington writes:

An old and simple solution to the current piracy tactic would be the formation of scheduled convoys through the area. These would be easy to escort effectively through the region without trying to police thousands of miles of empty ocean. Problem (at least this symptom) solved!

Minnesota, USA
April 16, 2009

Don in Minnesota writes:

Blow them out of the water

Illinois, USA
April 16, 2009

Julie in Illinois writes:

Listen to Abdi.

By all accounts the Somali pirates are attempting to protect THEIR maritime territory, in the only way they know how to do it. The seas are over fished by foreigners who apparently have no respect for the needs of the Somali people, who as Abdi pointed out, do not have a functioning government. Yet their people need to eat. There are also accounts of pollution in these waters. Though I'm not sure who polluted them, it would seem we should be trying to help the people of a governmentless country, to protect the resources they need to enable their survival.

According to the Taipei Times "With no coast guard to defend its shores, Somalis began complaining that vessels from Asia and Europe were dumping toxic waste in their waters and illegally scooping up red snapper, barracuda and tuna. The rampant illegal fishing began destroying the livelihoods of local fishermen."

So what started as an attempt to protect their livelihood, morphed into a moneymaking operation. A local elder said "people there used to make a living fishing, "but now the only livelihood they have is the income from the piracy. "

So in response to a people that has been in a state of war for decades, and whose children have grown up with nothing but violence and poverty, our response, if you listen to the east coast here, would be "level these towns?"

Nice Leslie. And I suppose you call yourself a Christian.

Violence solves nothing. The world has allowed Somalia to become and remain a failed state. We have plenty of Somali refugees here that could certainly give you concrete ideas about what we, and the rest of the world, could do to solve the situation.

I would begin by very publicly putting sanctions on any oceangoing vessels that violate Somali waters by polluting or overfishing them. I believe if they see that we are willing to help them, it would go a long way to begin a dialogue that would lead to a solution.

Fact is, since Somalia has no resources the West wants, the West had no interest in helping them reestablish a governmental system. We then looked the other way, when our commercial interests took advantage of that situation. now it has advanced to a point where people who had nothing can now be wealthy in a matter of days. Stakes are higher due to inaction and lack of interest. So who is really to blame here?

Find a solution befitting our Christian roots, not the twisted version that allows us to condemn christian leaders for one violation of religious precepts, but not the most basic. Whatsoever you do to the least of mt brethren, that you do unto me.

Bruce M.
Kentucky, USA
April 16, 2009

Bruce M. in Kentucky writes:

I suggest trying convoys of ships, escorted by the few military ships that may be available. It worked against the submarine threat in WWII. There would be no need for long distance circumvention of the area, although some ships may have to wait a limited time until a convoy and its military ship escorts could be assembled.

Jim W.
United Arab Emirates
April 16, 2009

Jim W. in the United Arab Emirates writes:

The international community should NOT respond to piracy at sea, other than the most immediate self-defence measures. Piracy at sea is just a symptom of a bigger problem -- anarachy in Somalia. The international community ought to focus most of its efforts on ensuring that there is a political settlement in Somalia that is peaceful, long lasting, and just.

Because until there is peace in Somalia, there will be piracy at sea.

Jim W.
Middle East Correspondent
Fairplay International Shipping Weekly

Texas, USA
April 16, 2009

John in Texas writes:

The pirates appear to be monitoring the media regularly. Remember the idea of having marshals on planes? We put undercover marshals on planes to reduce highjackings. Why not place SWAT or SEAL teams on unidentified flagged U.S. ships that go through the area. Announce to the pirates through the world media what the U.S. plans are. After a few attacks with lots of publicity (and dead pirates), I would anticipate the rate of hijackings would decrease. The pirates would not know if there was a team on board or not until it was too late. This is much more cost effective than racing destroyers and cruisers around the gulf.

New Mexico, USA
June 25, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Should "Not respond" Jim? Kinda too late for that don't you think?

Yeah I did already say a "Marshal Plan for Somalia" was needed, but after we kick butt, take names, etc.

"Without security, nothing can be built." -Hamid Karzai

Last summer I was driving through Kansas in the middle of the night to see my daughter graduate the next day in Missouri. A couple guys in a little red hatchback shot in front of my 4x4, slowed down radicly, and prevented my getting around them, as we got down to about 25 mph on the interstate, he put his arm out the door and pointed what looked like a handgun at my windshield in an effort to stop me.

According to you, I should "Not react" to hiwaymen trying to carjack me in the middle of nowhere.

Instead I used my 4000 lbs 4x4 to do everything I could to "disarm" him, pointing it directly at his driver's door and causing him to pull his arm in before losing it and turning his car away to avoid mine. Right off the side of the freeway I drove him into a dich, then split the scene since he was armed and I wasn't.

When I relayed the incident to a state patrol officer at he next truck stop, he didn't have any problem with the action I took.

I should say you have not a clue how to solve this piracy problem, seeing as how I am able to be writing this, instead of decomposing in a ditch somewwhere.

Peter H.
Illinois, USA
June 25, 2009

Peter in Illinois writes:

Good afternoon,

Continued request expand awareness as submitted here't_condemn_our_pirates_in_somalia/

Thank you

A E.
April 16, 2009

Drougos in Greece writes:

I personally believe that the U.S. and NATO allies should act against the safehavens of the Somali pirates, by attacking them (port facilities .etc) baased on precise intelligence.It is well known that Puntland and Somalia are ungoverned territories,thus creating further difficulties to engage and destroy them.but we are living in a world of multidimensional asymmetric threats.I am afraid that Somali pirates and Al Qaeda remnants in Yemen/Horn of Africa are trying to increase the variety of threats to our World.I would also suggest to train a SOMALILAND Coast Guard, in order to facilitate and show a "regional approach" in the fighting against criminals at sea.Additionally political,legal and other measures should be introduced (enhancing international measures to deal with pirates). DROUGOS/Senior Defence and Counterterrorism Analyst/National and Joint Defence Colleges.

Hawaii, USA
April 16, 2009

Ken in Hawaii writes:

Aloha, being that piracy off of Somalia is an international issue, it makes sense that the United Nations should form a task force to address Somalian concerns about their offshore waters and bring them up to speed on international law regarding the sea and international travel through offshore waters. All Somalian parties should be at the table at whatever venue is chosen. The resulting plan for developing an alternative to piracy should then be implemented under the UN's auspices. The plan should include the eventual release of current hostages and ships. UN forces should also be allowed to be present to protect any UN personnel and programs when in Somalia.

The warships operating off of Somalia should be brought under UN command and control in order to be effective and to enforce the agreement in lieu of a Somali ability to police its own shores without piracy. Somalia should also be able to put observers on the UN ships. This is the olive branch required before any forceful actions against Somalia can be condoned.

The Somalis do need a real world understanding of the consequences of their piracy to get them to give up piracy. However, stopping piracy off of Somalia without a cooperative Somalian citizenry will be expensive but it can be done. One problem is covering the vast distances that define the coast of Somalia. Both the British and Americans have Harrier jets that can take-off of any ship that carries helicopters. The USS Boxer may even have Harriers on board. Deploying Harriers on ships that can carry helicopters greatly shortens distances that have to be traveled for a timely response to pirate actions. The Harriers still have their mother-ship to return to for maintenance, etc.

Another problem is on-board security. This is managed by having two or three-man security teams with 50 cal. sniper rifles and night-vision equipment aboard vulnerable ships. The 50 cal. sniper rifle has an effective range of over a mile and easily can take our any pirate craft short of a mother-ship. The teams can also do it at better range than a similar gun on a pirate craft because the ship is more stable than a boat. If needed, these teams can be deployed by repelling off of helicopters and picked-up the same way. I am sure Blackwater is looking for work.

This approach will be more expensive than other methods but it will give Somalis pause. Attending a conference to get their coastal problems addressed and solved will look very attractive since it will be made clear that piracy can be marginalized. Mahalo and aloha.

North Carolina, USA
April 16, 2009

Chuck in North Carolina writes:

Mr. President, Madame Secretary of State, and Mr. Secretary of Defense:

I beg you to take whatever short-, medium-, and long-term measures necessary - but which comport with international law - to keep my son (now en route to the Gulf of Aden) and other merchant seamen safe on the high seas.

Youssef I.
April 16, 2009

Youssef in Egypt writes:

I have an innovated solution for any hijacked ship / airplane / or persons any where in the world by pirates who want ransom to release. this solution is safe and the cost is almost nothing. if you are interested , please contact. best regards



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