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Posted by on Nov 21, 2008 in At TMV | 3 comments

Modern Pirates Making Big Bucks: $150 Million In 12 Months

The news is now out: Pirates are making big bucks. A warning to America’s big three automakers: Don’t let this give you any ideas…

But using ships at sea to update and expand upon the centuries-old tradition of pirating is really raking the (tax-free) money in , according to reports:

More than $150 million have been paid to pirates around the Horn of Africa over the past 12 months, Kenya’s foreign minister said Friday.

The money is encouraging them to continue and become more brazen in their attacks, Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula told a news conference in the Kenyan capital.

“That is why they are becoming more and more audacious in their activities,” Wetangula said.

Pirate activity off the coastline of east Africa is a cause of growing international concern.

Last weekend pirates, who mostly operate from lawless Somalia, seized a Saudi-owned supertanker Sirius Star, the largest vessel captured to date. Another seized vessel, the Ukrainian MV Faina, was carrying a cargo of military supplies and T-72 tanks.

They currently hold 17 vessels and are estimated to have attacked more than 90 ships in the region so far this year, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center, which monitors piracy around the world. The attacks have increased in recent weeks, the PRC says.

The ransoms being paid to the pirates are also increasing, maritime security experts say. The method of paying the ransoms is changing, too, and has become one of the most complicated and dangerous sticking points in negotiations with pirates, the experts say.

Business is booming so well for pirates, in fact, that they’ve had to make some adjustments to their business model: they used to use complicated bank transfers but over the past month have switched to demanding cold cash upfront. Meanwhile, there are some new developments on the pirates front:

*Islamists say they’ll fight pirates.

*Hijackers have bolstered their defenses around an oil-laden Saudi tanker captured off the East African coast which Saudi Arabia now vows to join NATO ships in anti-pirate battle.

*The UN has vowed to step up the anti-pirate heat:

The United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution establishing a framework through which the international community can crack down on Somali pirates and better enforce the UN arms embargo on the country.

The resolution, approved in New York on Thursday, laid out a basis for listing individuals who are judged to be destabilizing Somalia with a view to banning them from travelling and freezing their assets.

The resolution noted that piracy may be playing a role in financing violations of the arms embargo established by an earlier Security Council resolution. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said this week that pirates had extorted U.S. $30 million in ransom money this year.

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  • Dave_Schuler

    Regardless of how large a sum $150 million sounds to ordinary folk like you and me, it’s small potatoes compared to what it would cost for the U. S. Navy, say, to perform escort duty for shipping through the Gulf of Aden if we had the ships to do it with which we don’t. Another suggestion that’s been put forward for a military solution to the piracy problem off the Horn of Africa has been to use armed RQ-4 unmanned aerial vehicles to perform surveillance.

    By my calculation it would take something like 20 of these, which are being produced at about the rate of one per month and shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan as fast as they can be produced. At $35 million a pop, not including defraying the costs of development, it’s still not a cost effective approach to the problem.

    The only real practical solution to piracy off the coast of Somalia is a functioning government in Somalia, something that hasn’t been the case since 1991. How that can be achieved is anybody’s guess. Until somebody figures out the combination I suspect that avoidance will be the solution of choice. That means avoiding the Suez Canal for the longer, costlier trip around the Cape of Good Hope.

    One way or another the costs will be reflected in increasing fuel prices and prices of things that use petroleum in their production process.

  • pacatrue

    On the other hand, think of how huge $150 million is in Somalia. It’s probably above 1% of the GDP.

  • JSpencer

    Looks like India, who has long been a growing military power, may use the pirates as training exercises. Too bad for the pirates, but good practice for India.

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