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07 January 2010

Piracy in Gulf of Aden: Considering the Effects of Private Protection Teams

There were 111 piracy related incidents reported on the east coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden in 2008. That means an increase of nearly 200 per cent compared with 2007. Furthermore, the reach of pirates in the region has extended hundreds of miles away from the coasts. All types of vessels with varying freeboards and speeds were targeted. The pirates boarding the vessels were also better armed than in previous years and prepared to assault and injure the crew.

Even though the US and EU have formed multinational counter-piracy Task Forces consisting of numerous warships, that is not likely going to solve the problem alone. The area to cover is too large (up to 2.5 million square miles) and no country can afford to send such a mass of ships to float to gain total control of that region. There are nearly 16,000 ships a year as potential targets for pirates passing the Gulf of Aden. One of the most important trade routes in the world is now threatened by instability of the region.

In the near future the pirates will improve their intelligence systems to achieve better situational awareness, especially on the locations of warships. This will allow them to evade the only threat they have encountered so far. To improve the flow of information they will merge into stronger alliances with each other as well as with terrorist organizations present in the region and that will bring the threat to a new and much devastating level.

More sophisticated methods of attacks are likely to be developed, such as using night vision devices or IEDs attached to a target vessel, to force it to comply with orders, or to mass more attackers against the ships, or to target more cruise ships. Ransom millions will attract more locals to join the business, and we will see a growth of weapons trafficking, more violence in Somalia, and the destruction of any possible government authority that could be the only force to gain control over the situation.

As the situation has not significantly improved after applying naval patrolling in the area and the trends are showing worrying signs of worsening it might now be a right time to think of adding another layer of solutions – private security companies.

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