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Literature Review on Maritime Piracy in Somali

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The keywords, however, run the risk of disguising political interests and underlying ideologies and undoubtedly leave much of what is really going on in their name (Cornwall 2007: 472). Basic modern international political terms, such as peace building or human security (Barnett et al., 2007, Graspers 2005), have such properties. Exploiting the safety of navigation as a bulldog allows us to understand the semantics as well as the disagreements about the concept. Keywords, as the literature shows, allow for international coordination of actions without consensus (Barnett et al., 2007; Bueger 2014). The keywords, however, also face the constant risk of disagreements and political clashes. Such disagreements can be dispersed in crisis situations and lead to dead ends and actions when they are most needed. They can also lead to contradictory activities and poor coordination when actors think they are talking about the same things when they are not de facto. If maritime safety is a keyword, then there is little prospect of forming an international consensus on the concept. To put it more bluntly, the spiritual quest for defining a definition that is reasonably superior to the rational criteria and which everyone should therefore agree on is a rather unproductive exercise. Different political interests and regulatory perceptions will always lead to different perceptions of the concept.

In order to find an answer, we need to identify the frameworks through which one can understand the communities and the disagreements that the concept of maritime safety entails. Security studies have been asking similar questions for decades (Baldwin 1997, Smith 2005). The lessons learned from these discussions point to important ways to promote the intellectual and political debate on maritime safety. The frameworks that are particularly useful are: 1) the ‘semantics’ intended to map different concepts by exploring the relationships between maritime safety and other concepts; various threats to maritime safety; and 3) the theory of practical safety aimed at understanding the actions taken in the name of maritime safety.

Maritime piracy

The word ‘pirate’ derives from the Latin word ‘pīrāta’, which coined the concept of ‘sea-keeper’ and from the Greek word ‘peirātés’ meaning ‘attacker’ or ‘marauder’ as being derived from the verb ” It means ‘attempt’ or ‘attack’. Therefore, a pirate is an etymologically a person who undertakes an attack or a real attack on someone (Ayto, 2005). From its origin, the concept of attempt and in fact the commission of the act have already been incorporated into the concept of pirate. The definition of the word ‘piracy’, which is acts committed by pirates, has evolved throughout history depending on the appearance of the act itself and the mode of operation of the offender as well as of time. If, for a long time, the concept of piracy relates only to maritime transport and maritime activities, the use of this word has been extended to air transport, intellectual property and other areas, such as broadcasting. In fact, today we talk a lot about hijacking, software piracy, pirate radios and television, etc. Therefore, the word ‘piracy’ is generally used to refer to illegal acts and unauthorized activity.

However, despite today’s accidental use of the word ‘piracy’ in various fields, it retains its original reference to the maritime arena depicting acts of hostility, encroachment, robbery or violence at sea against a ship, property carried on board or on board a ship, people aboard whether they are crew members or passengers. By codifying customary international piracy law through the 1958 Convention on the High Seas (CHS) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982), known as the Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC), one internationally recognized definition of seafaring piracy was introduced. Later, after becoming aware of issues related to the definition of maritime piracy as an offense on the high seas or outside the jurisdiction of any state, it was necessary to find another meaning to describe similar acts, but committed within the territorial sea, of the archipelagos and inland waters or simply within the jurisdiction of a State. It was then that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) began using the concept of ‘armed robbery against ships’ through its resolutions on maritime piracy. For the purposes of this research document, maritime piracy is defined in Article 101 of the LOSC and consists of the following acts:

  • (a) any illegal acts of violence or detention or acts of destruction perpetrated for private purposes by the crew or passengers of a private ship or private aircraft and directed:
    • (i) in the high seas, against another ship or aircraft or against persons or assets on board the ship or aircraft;
    • (ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or immovable property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
  • (b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or aircraft with knowledge of events that render it a pirate ship or aircraft;
  • (c) any act of incitement or intentional facilitating act described in (a) or (b).

As mentioned earlier, naval piracy and armed robbery against ships have been around the world since antiquity. It has flourished mainly in areas where social and economic problems arise and exist, the lack or impossibility of land enforcement and maritime law and political unrest. Their appearance or appearance varies somewhat from region to region. Once the threat level in a given area for a particular type of maritime piracy and armed robbery is reduced to an acceptable level, other outbreaks occur in other areas presenting the symptomatic criteria that allow the development of crime. Twenty-first Century Naval Piracy and Armed Robbery Areas are located in 10 different regions of the world, namely (1) East Africa, (2) Indian Ocean, (3) West Africa, (4) Arabian Sea, (6) South China, (7) Latin America and the Caribbean, (8) the Mediterranean Sea, (9) the North Atlantic and (10) areas designated ‘Other’ where the incidence of both crimes is very low or even rare (IMO, 2012). Paradoxically, even supposedly the safest marine space in the world can have an impact maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships, as demonstrated by the ‘M / V Arctic Sea’ case in the Baltic Sea in 2009 (Walker, 2009); prone areas are identified, maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships appear to occur parts of the planet and what they tend to attribute to them as a global phenomenon. From 1984 to 2011, 6,260 tried and true attacks were reported (IMO, 2012). In 2011 alone, there were 544 attacks and assaults that were 55 times higher (11.3%) compared to 2010 statistics (IMO, 2012).

Shipping piracy and armed robbery against ships vary in intensity, mode of operation, objectives and motivation in each affected area. In some cases, ships are boarded with the least amount of cash and valuables by the secure ship (Asian case). In some cases, they are attacked by more violent acts of cargo striking (the West African case is an example) and / or the ship itself (as found in the ‘M / V Alondra Raimbow’ case). The last category is kidnapping for ransom, taking the host, crew and cargo hostage and requesting ransom (the Somalian case).

Cost-benefit analysis of the regulations to reduce the maritime piracy threat

The international response to piracy was initially ad hoc, with Canadian, Danish and French vessels responding to a United Nations (UN) request to accompany sensitive World Food Program (WFP) missions along the coast of Somalia. NATO’s first anti-piracy mission, Operation Allied Provider, took over from October to December 2008 and was subsequently replaced by a similar European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) mission, Operation Atalanta, at the end of the year. The Atlantic Alliance returned to operation in April 2009 with the strongest suspension and deterrence order of Allied Protector. NATO’s mission evolved in August and was renamed Operation Ocean Shield. The mission now operates with four key objectives: to prevent and disrupt pirate operations at sea, to coordinate international efforts to combat piracy, to enhance the maritime community’s ability to effectively combat piracy and to develop its regional capability (NATO Parliamentary Assembly, 2012).

The idea of using the world’s most sophisticated warships to fight teenagers stuck in glass skiffs would be ridiculous to NATO’s founding generation, but anti-piracy operations embody the ‘postmodern’ naval policy outlined to the Alliance’s Maritime Strategy in 2011. ‘Maintaining freedom of navigation, maritime trade routes, critical infrastructure, energy flows, marine resources protection and environmental security the security interests of Allie ‘, notes the Marine Strategy and deserves to be protected by naval assets (NATO Parliamentary Assembly, 2012).

Operating Ocean Shield and combating piracy is a prime example of what Geoffrey Till describes as a ‘postmodern’ maritime strategy in which maritime states seek not to win maritime supremacy among themselves but to contribute resources to a cooperative maritime security regime (Smith-Windsor, 2009).

US-led CTF-151 alliance and independent naval development from countries such as China, India, Russia, Iran, Japan and Saudi Arabia have been added to NATO and EU piracy missions. By 2012, there were 20 to 30 international vessels participating in East African rollover operations on any given day. Despite these efforts, the number of pirate attacks continued to rise, hitting a peak of 236 attacks in 2011 (International Maritime Bureau, 2013). Pirate gangs adapted to increased naval presence by shifting their operations away from the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to the north, in the Indian Ocean to the east and the Mozambique Channel to the south. The use of parent ships – hijackers and merchant ships – was key to this expansion, as it allowed pirates to carry more than 2,000km of theft off the coast of Somalia and maintain their activity for weeks at a time. During a July 2011 UN Security Council briefing, Pirate Envoy Jack Lang warned that pirates were ‘clearly winning’ their race with the international community and became ‘masters’ of the Indian Ocean (Rice, 2011).

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Within a year of Lang’s warning, piracy in Somalia was on the decline, both in terms of success and the total number of attacks. By 2012, hijackings have fallen by 50% compared to the previous year, while attacks have decreased by 70% (Oceans Beyond Piracy, 2013). Explaining this sharp decline in piracy is multifaceted. From a military point of view, improved coordination between international naval forces and the adoption of stricter rules of engagement have been instrumental.

Following a strategic assessment in March 2012, NATO has amended its engagement rules and is increasingly engaged in surveillance of pirate beach camps and remote attack teams and the destruction of pirate mother ships and raiding boats. In 2011 alone, NATO forces neutralized 96 pirate ships (NATO Parliamentary Assembly, 2012). EUNAVFOR’s mandate was further extended to include air strikes on pirate camps, with such an attack on a pirate offshore camp in central Somalia on 15 May 2012.

While the vague judiciary was once responsible for a ‘capture and release’ policy on alleged pirates, an international strategy has already been put in place to conduct piracy trials in third countries and to transfer convicts to prisons in Somalia. UN funding and bilateral funding have set up missile courts in Kenya, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Tanzania and the construction and refurbishment of prisons in the Somaliland Autonomous Regions of Somaliland. Of an estimated original group of 3,000 active pirates, there are now more than 1,200 behind bars (Oceans Beyond Piracy, 2013). The financial incentive for piracy has not diminished for young Somalis but the fact that those now caught are punished for their crimes is believed by officials to combat piracy have a deterrent effect.

Perhaps most responsible for the decline of piracy were precautionary measures by the shipping industry. Commercial organizations are constantly updating a set of best management practices that provide guidelines on crossing speeds, passive defense measures and the use of capes to combat piracy. The use of private armed guards on board has expanded dramatically, despite initial hesitation. According to Ocean’s Beyond Pirary’s think tank, the number of ships using armed guards rose from 30% in 2011 to over 50% in 2012 (Oceans Beyond Piracy, 2013). A notable source in the maritime safety industry noted to the author that this number is now between 60- 80% and that increased use of armed guards has been the only major contribution to the decline of Somali piracy. As the industry is at a distance, pirates have yet to catch a boat carrying armed guards.

Political and security developments in Somalia have also served to make the country less favorable to piracy than it was in 2008. Offenses initiated by African Union (AU) and Kenyan and US troops Ethiopia pushed its fighters al-controlled, the most important in Mogadishu and the strategic port of Kismayo. Although relations between Islamist militias and pirate gangs are limited, the (relatively) reduced threat of the former has presented local authorities with new opportunities to deal with the latter. Increased security has finally allowed the United Nations and bilateral services to return to the country after 18 years of exile. In Puntland, businesses started by the Puntland Maritime Police Force have denied pirate gangs access to safe havens and moorings (Pelton, 2012). According to local media sources, the former pirate strongholds in Eyl, Garad and Bargal now have ‘destroyed’ pirates in the area captured, fled or reformed (AllAfrica, 2013).

Together, these factors have forced silent piracy into a cycle of decline. Less hunting means less ransom money, which, combined with more frequent arrests, hampers the ability of pirate gangs to fund future operations and replace losses. As of June 4, there have been only seven pirate attacks reported to the International Maritime Bureau this year (International Maritime Bureau, 2013). All of these attacks have taken place in the Gulf of Aden or less than 300nm off the coast of Somalia, indicating that pirate gangs are becoming increasingly numerous and more difficult to launch sophisticated attacks with blue water. For the international community, piracy in Somalia is now out of crisis.

Although the evidence is encouraging, anti-piracy commanders are quickly demonstrating that preventive security is still needed. ‘The underlying causes of piracy still persist,’ said outgoing Ocean Commander Thomas Natale, ‘so we must all be careful’ (NATO Maritime Command, 2013). The question then is whether international maritime patrols are still effective and a sustained response to the reduced threat of piracy.

According to the report ‘The Financial Costs of Somali Piracy 2012’, piracy in Somalia continued to generate about $ 6 billion in global costs in 2012, of which $ 1.09 billion is spent on military operations against piracy. The report further estimates that NATO’s Ocean Shield operation costs the Alliance $ 5.7 million in annual administrative spending (Oceans Beyond Piracy, 2013). The cost sharing of developing vessels borne by contributing states is more controversial, however, as each vessel used and combating piracy would continue maintenance, training, staffing and logistics costs if it were to develop into any other active service in the context of permanent shipping of the group. Without prejudice to this, the annual installation and operating costs for the average of the four vessels destined for Ocean Shield are estimated at approximately $ 75 million using the Oceans Beyond Pirates methodology (Oceans Beyond Piracy, 2013). These costs are undoubtedly unsustainable in a season of decline, piracy and military budget cuts throughout the Alliance. It now appears that there is a diminished need for naval forces to provide a strong response and deterrence capability, as pirates launch fewer attacks and the majority of vulnerable vessels now have armed guards. While international naval forces halted 100 pirate attacks in 2011, that number dropped to 40 in 2012 and so far only three disturbances have occurred (NATO Shipping Center, 2013). As States parties have to bear the costs of their own operations, they are reluctant to deploy nautical assets when they no longer seem necessary. NATO officials note that the Alliance has struggled to meet the requirements of the Ocean Shield force and that it is currently only possible to dedicate data from the two NATO Permanent Maritime Teams (NATO Parliamentary Assembly, 2012).

Mission fatigue and budgetary constraints have also been reported for the shortages of warships in the EU Atalanta operation (Brunnstrom, 2011). While EUNAVFOR deployed 5-10 ships in rotation in 2011, its assets decreased to 4-7 in 2012 (Oceans Beyond Piracy, 2013).


Although cost-free, Ocean Shield has provided NATO with an unprecedented opportunity to improve international maritime cooperation, to define its role in the maritime sector and lay the foundations for a new era of security partnerships. In fact, the development of opposition operations reflects the declarations and goals of the Alliance’s Maritime Strategy for 2011. The sharp decline in piracy in Somalia disputes the reason for the mission, but should not be a cause for complete departure from the region. A functional transition, not an end, will allow the Alliance to consolidate its profits while contributing to a lasting solution to the problem of piracy. As maritime assets are being developed, regional and local capacity building should play a central role. No new institutions and organizations are needed, as NATO can contribute its experience and expertise to existing efforts.

Addressing the absence and collapse of Somalia’s security capacity is the most demanding element of this shift in policy, but it is ultimately the most important. If the conditions that have allowed piracy to remain rooted in Somalia remain, a prudent pirate must only wait for warships to return home and the shippers to leave their guard before returning to terrorize the sea. Likewise, with the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa now poised to overshadow Somalia as the world’s most pirated waters, it is important for NATO and other security actors to incorporate lessons learned from the Horn of Africa, effective policies that they also target the factors that allow crime. Although it requires a proactive approach, preventing piracy today is far more effective than fighting tomorrow.

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Literature Review on Maritime Piracy in Somali. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from
“Literature Review on Maritime Piracy in Somali.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Literature Review on Maritime Piracy in Somali. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2022].
Literature Review on Maritime Piracy in Somali [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2022 Dec 8]. Available from:
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