Disrupting Somali pirate activity on shore and at sea avoids dire consequences of piracy escalation

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The SaveOurSeafarers campaign has applauded yesterday’s EUNAVFOR airborne operation to destroy pirate equipment on the Somali coastline – action against known pirate supply bases on the shore which is expected to disrupt Somali pirates’ efforts to launch attacks on merchant ships, dhows and fishing vessels.

SOS Chairnan Alastair Evitt said: “This EUNAVFOR action is an extension of what we have been pressing governments for over tougher and more proactive rules of engagement in respect of the catch and release of suspected pirates, and in respect of pirate mother ships whose activities have allowed the Somali pirates to extend their reach right across the Indian Ocean towards the Indian coast and up to the entrance to the oil-rich Arabian Gulf.”

The positive news of these attacks on Somali pirates’ beach stores coincides with last week’s hijacking of the Greek-owned suezmax tanker Smyrni, and with talk of governments cutting back naval forces and obstructing ransom payments. This negative sentiment has once again made people think about what the consequences would be if seafarers and shipowners were to restrict trade through these dangerous waters.

The spectre looms of the recent fuel crisis that gripped the UK, providing a glimpse of what could happen at any time, anywhere in the world, if Somali piracy in the Gulf and Indian Ocean is allowed to escalate out of control leading to ship owners and crews refusing to cross these dangerous areas altogether.”

Mr Evitt again: “Much of the world’s automotive fuel arrives by sea. If oil tanker routes through the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden were disrupted by piracy, it would completely paralyse many of the world’s biggest economies in a matter of days. People don’t realise that over 90% of world trade is dependent on seafarers and  ships, with 40% passing through the affected area.”

The petrol pump pandemonium witnessed earlier this year was created by the mere mention of a fuel shortage.  It led to hoarding and panic at the pumps of petrol forecourts across Britain as thousands of motorists rushed to fill up their tanks and jerrycans amid fuel crisis fears. And it could be replicated in any country at any time.

“People realised their lives and jobs would grind to a halt within hours without fuel for their cars and commercial vehicles,” Mr Evitt said.  “Pirates prey on ships carrying finished goods or raw materials, and tankers carrying liquid fuel and chemicals. Anything that disrupts the flow of trade disrupts our carefully balanced global economy.

“Somali piracy is a real and present threat to each and every one of us. More than 225 seafarers are currently held hostage by Somali pirates. Unpalatable as it may seem, the current system of strong, decisive naval activity, and the negotiation and payment of ransoms, is the only way to secure the lives and liberty of our seafarers.”