The piracy off the coast of Somalia is a crime of growing global concern as the number of pirate attacks has risen steadily since 2007.
According to Assistant Secretary Andrew J. Shapiro of Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, as of the 14th of June, 400 seafarers were being held as hostages, and 18 hijacked ships were being held for ransom.
He said the increase in the total number of attacks has tragically come with an increase in the level of violence against hostages.
“This was displayed in brutal fashion by the killing of the four American Citizens aboard the sailing vessel QUEST in February. Pirates are also evolving their tactics. Through the use of “motherships” and GPS technology, pirates have been able to expand their geographic range from the southern Red Sea to the eastern Indian Ocean.”Mr. Shapiro
Mr. Shapiro noted that motherships are hijacked ships used as floating bases, which allow pirates to stage attacks hundreds of miles from the Somali coast.
He said a vicious cycle has formed where ever-rising ransom payments have not just spurred additional pirate activity, but have also enabled pirates to increase their operational capabilities and sophistication.
“Piracy has gone from a fairly ad hoc disorganized criminal endeavor to a highly developed transnational criminal enterprise.”Mr. Shapiro
Mr. Shapiro highlighted that the United States has taken the lead in pursuing a multilateral and multidimensional approach to combating piracy emanating from the coast of Somalia.
He said piracy can only be effectively addressed through broad, coordinated, and comprehensive international efforts. He elaborated that in January 2009, the United States helped establish the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (Contact Group), which includes nearly 70 nations, international organizations, and maritime trade associations.
According to Mr. Shapiro, the Contact Group helps coordinate national and international counter-piracy policies and actions. It has galvanized action and harmonized counter-piracy policy among participating countries and international organizations.
He said with the multilateral framework in place, they have pursued a multi-dimensional approach that focuses on security; prevention; and deterrence.