Archive for the ‘armada’ Category

Somali Pirates: NATO Ships Can Only Watch

November 4, 2008

Forty days ago, Solami pirates took control of the cargo ship MV Faina  loaded with missiles, tanks and other war supplies.   A Nato armada, at the request of the United Nations, set sail to waters off Somalia to deal with the pirates.  But they can do nothing because political leaders cannot figure out the rules of engagement….

Chege Mbitiru
The nation, Nairobi

Swinging of earrings – they remain stationary despite movement – is evident in international war against Somali sea pirates. The Nato armada in the region and MV Faina cargo ship standoff serve as examples.

The pirates captured the ship 40 days ago. Two weeks ago, a Nato armada, at the request of the United Nations, set sail to waters off Somalia to deal with the pirates.

NATO warships passing through the Suez Canal. A spate of high-profile ...
NATO warships passing through the Suez Canal. A spate of high-profile hijackings by Somali pirates has spurred western navies into action but experts argue that a handful of warships can do little to stamp out the lucrative piracy business.(AFP/Po Luigi Cotrufo)

Reuters reported the force commander, US Admiral Mark Fitzgerald’s gloom. Militarily, he said, the force can do little. Reason? Neither Nato’s European Council, nor the UN Security Council had figured out the rules of engagement.

Yet six nations provided the ships, including destroyers, interestingly, to fight fibreglass speedboats. Additionally, Russia and India sent a warship each. On Thursday, undeterred pirates seized a Turkish vessel.

Piracy off Somalia’s 3,296-kilometre coast for ransoms didn’t start the other day. That Somalia long became cartographic lines and, therefore, incapable of performing state functions, is trite.

For at least ten years, piracy has steadily grown into a routine and lucrative business. From vessels carrying relief food, pirates moved to merchant and cruise ships, ocean going tugboats, yachts and support vessels.

First to say

The UN should have been the first to say, “Stop or else.” Ships ferrying UN World Food Programme supplies were initial targets. Moreover, the UN has an agency to oversee maritime safety, the International Maritime Organization.

The pirates’ audacity and brazenness seem to have prompted the UN’s not-so-well-thought move. “Think of us as coast guard,” said Mr. Sugule Ali, a spokesperson of pirates holding MV Faina. It has a Ukraine’s cargo of 33 tanks, rocket launchers and ammunition destined to Kenya.

Media reports indicate the pirates this year have struck 75 times, captured 30 ships and are holding a dozen and crew after releasing some for ransoms of between $18-$30 millions. Briefly, an important maritime route heads to uselessness.

Incidentally, assuming MV Faina’s cargo was above board, Ukraine and Kenya should have alerted the Combined Task Force 150.

After all, the force, which has ships from several nations, including the United States, is supposed to monitor movements of terrorist groups like al-Shabaab in Somalia. Ensuring such cargo as MV Faina’s doesn’t end up with them fits the Task Force’s bill.

Anyway, back Admiral Fitzgerald. He said for now the force would focus on escorting WFP ships delivering aid to Somalia. He cited the case of a Danish naval ship. Late September, the Danes captured ten pirates but later freed them because Danish law didn’t permit their trial in Demark.

Some other laws prevented Denmark from handing the men over to another country.

Legal issues need attention. Undoubtedly, the European Council, in conjunction with the United Nations, will do so while formulating the rules of engagement for the admiral’s armada. It’s obvious by now that’s a long haul for an emergency. Short cuts exist.

People in speedboats, armed with AK47s, wielding grenade launchers and carrying ropes, grappling hooks and ladders in an area prone to sea piracy don’t qualify as deep-sea anglers. Blow them up!

The same goes for their mother ships–support vessels–found carrying such incriminating paraphernalia. Illegal, lawyers will argue and jam several courts with suits.

What about confiscating suspected pirates’ arms, all equipments, boats’ engines and leave the lot a drift for some days and later send it home to tell tales.

Inhumane, human rights buffs will shout.

While the shouting and argument continues, the UN can work out a civilised way of dealing with the pirates since the Somali “tar baby” the world is stuck with isn’t melting soon: Hire a ship, anchor it off the Somali coast and set up a court and jail for convicted pirates under the old Somali law.

At least that’s better than swinging earrings.

The French frigate 'Courbet' was involved in a rescue ... 
The French frigate ‘Courbet’ was involved in a rescue operation to free a luxury yacht in September 2008. The French navy has arrested eight suspected pirates and handed them over to authorities in the breakaway Somali region of Puntland.(AFP/Marine Nationale/File/null)