The European Union’s naval forces have attacked pirate bases along the coast of Somalia using helicopters to destroy boats. This is the first time that the pirate bases have been attacked and is the first time that the EU has taken the fight to the pirates, rather than just chasing them round the Arabian Sea. Rear Admiral Duncan Potts of EU Navfor said ‘The attack would further increase the pressure on and disrupt pirates’ efforts to get out to sea to attack merchant shipping.’
Over the years Somali pirates have been the scourge of virtually all shipping in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. These pirates have hijacked hundreds of ships and boats over the years with everything from supertankers to pleasure yachts being seen as a target. If successful, the pirates take the boats or ships to their strongholds and hold the crews and cargos for ransom. Many countries will not pay ransoms with the result that their citizens are held for many months or even years. Earlier this year, British registered shipping was given leave to apply to have armed guards onboard in order to offer protection from piracy. The main problem for the naval forces is that the Indian Ocean is vast and there are not the resources to cover it all. Most shipping is going to or from the Suez Canal which is the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea and this makes it easy for the pirates.
The response from international shipping has been positive so far, however, the risk is that the pirates will step up their attacks or even that violence towards captives will escalate. Until Somalia has a proper government and a coastguard piracy will continue.