Somali Piracy Is Booming: Greenwich Report Concludes

Piracy has gone way beyond an opportunistic source of income and is now well established in Somalia according to research carried out by the University of Greenwich. Their findings form a vital part of a report on the subject by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.

The research was carried out by Dr Alec Coutroubis, Principal Lecturer in the School of Engineering and George A Kiourktsoglou, who is studying for a PhD in Maritime Security.

There are now a large number of participants and beneficiaries from the attacks which were stimulated by geography, international trade, poverty and lack of central political authority. There are no legitimate sources of income that rival the income available from the ransoming vessels and crews.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Fort Victoria deploying joint Royal Navy and Royal Marine boarding teams to check a suspect vessel off the Somali coast. 
Photo credit: Royal Navy

The authors argue that older vessels are more likely to be successfully attacked and the vessels of some countries are more prone to attack than others. According to their research unless internal conflict in their country is resolved by the Somalis themselves piracy will be a problem for a long time to come.

Dr Alec Coutroubis, who was the Managing Director of a Greek Shipping company, says: “We were delighted that the Foreign Affairs Committee drew on our academic expertise in this area. Next year the university will be offering a Master’s degree in Maritime Security.”

Tunbridge Wells couple Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were held hostage by Somali pirates for 388 days, also gave evidence to the committee.

The House of Commons report, titled Piracy off the coast of Somalia, concludes that the government’s anti-piracy policy has had limited impact. It calls for the government to assess the implications of having armed private security guards on UK vessels, clarify the position on the use of lethal force, take measures to increase the prosecution of pirates, and track ransom payments. It was also advised to support and develop engagement with civil society and community organisations, and to review support measures for the families of British hostages.

The Foreign Affairs Committee urged the government to give a high priority to the international conference on piracy being held in the UK next month and to continue existing measures such as maintaining an anti-piracy vessel in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, host the European Union Naval Force Somalia and support efforts by the Transitional Federal Government to exert more control over the country. 

Contacts and sources:
University of Greenwich