Friday, April 10, 2009

Pirate hostage stand-off continues off Somali coast

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I realize that there's a serious piracy problem in and around the Gulf of Aden and along the Somali coast of the Horn of Africa, but the magnitude of the problem continues to amaze me.

The latest development in the current drama involving a U.S. cargo ship was the attempted - and failed -- escape of the ship's captain, Richard Phillips. He jumped out of a lifeboat and tried to swim to a nearby U.S. naval vessel but was recaptured. The crew of the Maersk Alabama somehow retook control of the ship from the pirates, and now the Navy and the FBI are attempting to secure the Phillips' release.

The problem is much bigger than a single American ship, though. Consider this passage from the N.Y. Times:

The standoff unfolding on the high seas off the coast of Somalia intensified Friday as American naval reinforcements moved toward the scene. There were also reports that the pirates, desperate to reach shore with their captive, had themselves called in additional vessels and men.

It's understandable that the U.S. would send in reinforcements -- and a longer-term naval presence in the region may be necessary -- but what's clear is that these pirates are actually part of a fairly sizable organization, at least large enough that there are "additional vessels and men" available to them.

One of the most lawless parts of the world -- where pirates even hijack ships carrying humanitarian aid, as is the case with the Maersk Alabama -- is fast becoming a war zone, the piracy problem so great that countries around the world have established a naval task force, Combined Task Force 151, to combat it. (For more on piracy off the Somali coast, see here.)

It's all quite amazing -- given that this is 2009, not 1809 -- but obviously the threat is significant.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home