Warehouse G

Nothing To Lose

Understanding The Somalia Pirates

By James Donahue

The Nation of Somalia, located on the Indian Ocean right at the so-called Horn of Africa, has been said to have been the origin of much of the piracy against ships of the world that pass that region for the past 20 years.

The piracy problem began with a few rag-tag armed characters who boarded ships from high-powered speedboats, seized money and whatever else of value they could find. It has since evolved to more sophisticated gangs that today hijack entire ships and its cargo and hold them for ransom. Settling such seizures is usually a long and drawn-out ordeal in which ship’s crews are held captive for weeks and sometimes months. In the end, the payoff has been rich. Ship owners, the cargo owners or insurance companies have been willing to pay sums reaching a million dollars or more to recover their crews and property valued at ten times that amount.

Pirating has become so popular along the African coast that various navies of the world, including that of the United States, have dispatched ships to patrol those waters. Only recently, with the incident involving the container ship Maersk Alabama and the capture of its captain, have the pirates dared to take on a ship under the United States flag.

The French government has resorted to sending trained military personnel in to recover boats, ships and attempt to rescue hijacked crews.

The very act of catching and overpowering a large moving ship at sea from a small speedboat is clearly a dangerous and deadly operation for the pirates. It involves daring, agility, and a willingness to do what appears to be the impossible. Scaling the towering side of a steel hulled ship under power at sea cannot be easy, especially when crews see the pirates coming and are fighting back in whatever way they can. A United Nations treaty prevents commercial ships at sea from being armed.

So why would they do such a thing?

People in many African countries like Somalia have been living in extreme poverty for a very long time. Their nations have been racked by corrupt governments, war, overpopulation and famine. But families of the pirates that have been successful at even one hijacked ship that paid off well are suddenly seeing a new life style. They are building luxurious homes, deriving fine cars, filling their bellies with rich food and discovering how the wealthy people of the world have been living.

For these people, the risk of death on the high seas for a crack at such wealth is worth the effort. Now that a few pirates have been successful at this daring game, more and more young men are eager to get their part of the fabulous wealth floating past their shores every day on the fleets of mighty ships.

Somalia, a former British colony until 1960, operated briefly under socialist rule until the regime of Mohamed Siad Barre collapsed in 1991. Since then the country has been suffering from tribal warfare, civil strife and general anarchy.

This has set the stage for the gangs of pirates now operating on the high seas.

How does the world deal with such a problem? Either ship owners start mounting guns and training crews to repel borders, or we find a way to bring peace and stability to the people of Somalia, as well as all of the other troubled nations of Africa and the rest of the world.

We prefer the latter. We think the time is right for the world to consider a socialist system of unification of governments and a sharing of resources so that all people of the world can live with equality. Naturally those in power, who have their hands on the world’s wealth, will mount a stiff resistance against such an idea. And the irony is, that they are the people who own and operate the ships that the pirates are hijacking.