One Ghastly Thing

Midway through our Art. 7 commentary we included this paragraph from David Hughes’ article about the “23rd Seatrade Awards Ceremony Dinner” in London:

“Having such a high-level judging panel is key to making the awards international, and the Guildhall was packed with attendees from around the world. So it was a picture of shipping at its international best, enjoying itself. Except that this year, everything that shipping does is overshadowed by one ghastly thing: Somali piracy.”

Right. Piracy. Front and center. “Piracy a big concern for shipping”, is the featured story in this week’s Singapore’s Business Times. The writer, Conrad Tan, begins the story by stating the obvious: “There is an urgent need for the international community to combat maritime piracy.”

“S. S. Teo,” Mr. Tan writes, “the head of Singapore’s largest privately owned shipping company, has many responsibilities. But the managing director of Pacific International Lines (PIL), who is also president of the Singapore Shipping Association, has one concern that dwarfs all others: maritime piracy. The increasingly brazen and brutal attacks on ships and their crew by pirates in the waters off the coast of Somalia, the Gulf of Aden (a stretch of the Arabian Sea between Somalia and Yemen), and the Indian Ocean in the past year has made him deeply worried for the safety of the crew members of ships that ply the affected routes, he says.

“‘Today, when pirates are captured, the captors don’t know what to do with them. I think that’s something that the United Nations has to take a lead in, perhaps by setting up an international court where pirates can be prosecuted, and a detention centre for those found guilty.’

“Last year alone, pirates hijacked 53 ships, attacked 392 more, and took 1,181 seafarers hostage worldwide – the highest number of kidnappings at sea ever, according to a report by the International Maritime Bureau. Eight sailors were killed. Almost all the hijackings took place off the coast of Somalia, which has been without a functioning government for two decades.

“‘People are getting killed. Something is very wrong. It shouldn’t happen in this day and age,’ Mr. Teo says. ‘The Somalian pirates used to be contained within the Gulf of Aden, and they used to hijack only commercial vessels. And when ships were hijacked, usually the hostages would be released after a few months, for a ransom of maybe a few hundred thousand dollars; that was three or four years ago. Today, the pirates have gone all the way to the Indian Ocean, even to almost the southern tip of India. And now they hijack even yachts with families.'” –

What is really becoming “obvious”, Mr. Tan, is the fact that several hundred NATO warships in the area – as well as the thousands of U.S. military personnel stationed on the island of Diego Garcia, our secret base in the Indian Ocean – are giving a free hand to that rag-tag band of Somali pirates.

Do you suppose the CIA has anything to do with this “ghastly thing”?