Piracy; cultural history

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Piracy is an outliving phenomenon of cultural history. However, the modern piracy has become a threat to the international trade. By attacking the vessels, pirates ask for ransom or just rob the companies of the cargo. There are different routes and different countries that are facing piracy in their waters. The ones that are the most intensive are foremost at the Strait of Malacca, the Chinese Sea and the Horn of Africa/the Gulf of Aden.

There are different preconditions for piracy to occur in a region:

“legal and jurisdictional weakness; favourable geography; conflict and disorder; under-funded law enforcement/inadequate security; permissive political environments; cultural acceptability; promise of reward.”[1]

When we look on the Somalian case, it is a perfect region for piracy to take place. We will explain the situation in Somalia closer now. First of all, there are about 21.000 ships passing the Gulf of Aden every year, being the shortest connection between Europe and Asia. If the ships were to go around the Cape of Good Hope instead, it would take about 20 more days and much more shipping costs.[2]

Geographically, at the Gulf the sea is pretty a narrow (we need the number of km/miles that are between Somalia and Yemen) what makes big vessels to slow down when passing. Also shores are so close that the distance from the pirate base to the ships passing is not that long.

However, what is so special about Somalia is the inner situation. After the collapse of the authoritarian rule of Mohammad Siad Barre in 1992, the country has been in the civil war because of the conflicts of local clan leaders and warlords fighting for the power. Therefore Somalia is considered to be a failed state and therefore its political, security and jurisdictional situation creates a good base for the evolution of piracy.

At the very beginning, the international community showed a very sluggish attitude to anarchy and apocalypse in Somalia, this directly led to a correspondingly alienated mood of Somalians towards the UN.[3]

UNOSOM I was established in 1992 , which was the first action taken by the UN. It was basically a fragmented use of army that with a traditional “peace keeping” motivation. During UNITAF in late 1992 and early 1993, the UN showed its intention of enhances its military capability.[4] UNOSOM II after spring 1993 exposed an essential need for a stronger political administration. Both of the former concepts are weak instruments, none of them could be responded to the conditions in Somalia on their own. The mandate of UNOSOM II was not “enforcement” and with a premise that its presence in Somali is one of “assistance”.[5]

Somalia is a fractured state where there is hardly any sense of “being in a same nation” among its various powerful factions. The previously and current mean strategic approach of the international community which has been seeking to an impose a “ state centric model” for governs the messy situation within Somalia, has being constantly approved to fail.

Given the fact that the TFG is already the 14th interim government since 1991, it apparently no where nearby a viable way to deal with the Somalia[6]

In recent years, piracy appeared foremost in the Strait of Malacca, the Chinese Sea and the Horn of Africa/Gulf of Aden. However, in the Strait of Malacca as well as in the Chinese Sea, piracy is a ongoing problem for more than a decade already. Furthermore, the coastal countries of the Strait of Malacca have taken measures to prevent it. Both in the Strait of Malacca and in the Chinese Sea, the coastal countries have no interest in an interference of other countries or the United Nations.

Differently is the situation in the Gulf of Aden at the Horn of Africa: It is an important shipping route through the Suez canal “connecting” Asia to the Western world. Annually 21.000 ships, the same as 12% of the world shipping are navigating through this area. The last couple of years the amount of pirates in the Gulf of Aden has raised and in 2008 the pirates hijacked 42 ships. Some of the hijacked vessels even transported combat vehicles, anti-airplane-weapons, or oil barrels. As the ship-owning companies need to pay high ransoms and deliveries are late, piracy is harming the international economy actively.

Somalia - failed state, what the problems are Missions of the international community

It is very dangerous to go through the area of Somalia and right now it is not possible to see the end of this problem due to the situation in Somalia. The shipping companies might have to re-navigate their ships all the way south of Africa to avoid pirate attacks. If they do so it will result in increasing shipping-costs and thereby it will affect “normal” people in the way of increasin+6g prices for goods.

How can the deeper problems in Somalia, which lead people to piracy, be overtaken?

[1] Murphy, Martin N. (2007): Chapter One: Contemporary Piracy, Adelphi Series, 47:388, 11-44; p. 13

[2] Zdenka wants a footnote

[3] Fighting for Hope in Somalia By Jarat Chopra. Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Peacekeeping and Multinational Operations No 6, 1995.

[4] Brett D. Schaefer, “Time for a New United Nations Peacekeeping Organization,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2006, February 13, 2007, at

[5] Fighting for Hope in Somalia By Jarat Chopra. Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Peacekeeping and Multinational Operations No 6, 1995.

[6] Piracy: A Symptom of Somalia's Deeper Problems Brett D. SchaeferWebMemo2.Published by The Heritage Foundation No. 2398 April 17, 2009

Article name: Piracy; cultural history essay, research paper, dissertation