Fishermen & the Failed State | General News & Politics | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
Pin It
Favorite

Fishermen & the Failed State 

Last Updated: 08/13/2013 3:54 pm

Romance and high seas adventure have historically been associated with pirates. Images of handsome, swashbuckling captains of yore swinging on sailcloth and rescuing damsels in distress swarm the imagination. Pirate mythology is as expansive as it is misleading, and contrasts deeply with present-day realities. Until news of recent high-profile acts of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, most Americans thought piracy was as much a relic of the distant past as X-marks-the-spot buried treasure.

In the last decade, however, acts of piracy have actually tripled. A quick view of the International Chamber of Commerce’s Commercial Crime Services-sponsored International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy maps, spanning 2005 to the present day, shows a shift in acts of piracy from the Straits of Malacca in Indonesia to the Gulf of Aden and off the east coast of Somalia. Figures as of May 12, 2009 had already surpassed those of 2008, with 29 reported successful hijackings (which included the taking of 815 crew members hostage), out of 114 reported hijack attempts. The surge in attacks was particularly high off the east coast of Somalia, where there have been 43 attacks reported so far this year, with 478 crew members taken hostage, compared to 19 attacks in all of 2008.

Among the biggest headline grabbers was the September 2008 hijacking of a Ukrainian freighter loaded with antiaircraft guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and 33 Russian T-72 tanks reportedly headed for rebels in Southern Sudan. Many feared these weapons would end up in the hands of Islamic jihadists who have turned the capital city of Mogadishu into one of the world’s most dangerous places. Two months later, in November, Somali pirates hijacked a Saudi supertanker off the coast of Kenya carrying $100 million worth of crude oil. The boldest attack—in that an American ship was involved—occurred in April when Somali pirates seized the US-flagged Maersk Alabama. Holding the Maersk Alabama’s crew hostage until its captain surrendered; four days later, he was dramtically rescued when US Navy SEAL snipers killed the pirates.

With no effective government in place since 1991, Somalia is often referred to as the most complete example of a failed state, and the word’s largest humanitarian disaster. Symptomatic of the socio-economic failings occurring within the country, piracy has emerged not only as an economic boon to a small few, but has also drawn the eye of the world to a region otherwise abandoned by both media and humanitarian aid organizations. In an article for GQ earlier this year, NY Times East Africa bureau chief, Jeffrey Gettleman, laid out a scenario where piracy “investors front money for skiffs, guns, binoculars, GPS units, fuel, and cigarettes,” take 20 percent of the ransom for profit, another 20 percent for “future missions, 30 percent to bribe government officials, and the rest split between the pirates and their henchmen, who can number in the hundreds. Strings are pulled by Somali businessmen based in Kenya, Djibouti, Dubai, and even London. They have translators, accountants, money inspectors—an entire white-collar network that manages the operations from afar.” Gettleman estimates “that on any given day, as many as 1,500 gunmen go out in skiffs to hunt down the ships, and thousands more work onshore guarding the captives.”

In an attempt to give readers an overall view of Somali piracy, senior editor Lorna Tychostup speaks with David Shinn, former US Ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso and adjunct professor of International Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs.

What other countries besides Somalia house pirates?
The Strait of Malacca is by far the most prominent area in recent time, but it’s been pretty much stopped there because the ships take more care. There is no government in the Strait of Malacca that wants to lose the commerce; they are committed to stamping piracy out, which makes it much harder for pirates to operate. Another area is the Gulf of Guinea. It is not really a matter of piracy but rather a group of Nigerians with grievances who kidnap oil-related personnel from offshore facilities.

Somalia’s been called one of the worst cases of a failed state.
Actually, I refer to it not as the worst failed state, but as the most complete failed state. It is important to make a distinction between Somalia and Somaliland. Somaliland is a country that in 1991 declared its independence from Somalia, has a functioning elected government, and is doing fairly well. But the former Italian Somalia, as opposed to the former British Somaliland, is the world’s most complete failed state. There has been no national government that has exercised control over the entire country or even a significant part of the country since 1991 when the previous dictatorship was overthrown.

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
Newburgh Mall Carnival @ Newburgh Mall

Newburgh Mall Carnival

Thu., June 17, 5-10 p.m., Fri., June 18, 5-11 p.m., Sat., June 19, 12-11 p.m., Sun., June 20, 12-10 p.m., Mon., June 21, 5-10 p.m., Tue., June 22, 5-10 p.m., Wed., June 23, 5-10 p.m., Thu., June 24, 5-10 p.m., Fri., June 25, 5-11 p.m., Sat., June 26, 12-11 p.m. and Sun., June 27, 12-10 p.m. — Enjoy midway fun for the whole family with rides and games for...
Let's Talk Art: The Winslow Homer Oil Collection of the Arkell Museum @

Let's Talk Art: The Winslow Homer Oil Collection of the Arkell Museum

Tue., June 22, 6:30-7:30 p.m. — Join Curator of Education and Public Engagement, Mary Alexander as she discusses...

View all of today's events

Chronogram on Instagram

Latest in News & Politics

  • Celebrating Juneteenth 2021 in the Hudson Valley
  • Celebrating Juneteenth 2021 in the Hudson Valley

    Juneteenth marks the official end of slavery in America on June 19, 1865. Today, the holiday focuses on Black achievements and culture, recognition of inequality and systemic racism in the United States, and the ongoing fight for equal rights. 2021 brings an expanded list of ways to celebrate Black freedom and to reckon with the racial past and present of the United States.
    • Jun 14, 2021
  • Clarkson’s Beacon Institute Is Moving to Its New Home at Dennings Point This Month
  • Clarkson’s Beacon Institute Is Moving to Its New Home at Dennings Point This Month

    For over a decade, Clarkson University’s Beacon Institute has been a mainstay of downtown Beacon. From its location on Main Street, the Institute has become a leading voice in research into healthy water solutions in the region and has been an important local resource for STEM-driven educational programs for K-12 students, families, and the public alike. This June marks a major milestone for the growth of the Institute, as it officially relocates just a few miles south to Dennings Point—a scenic 64-acre peninsula that juts into the Hudson River and is part of the Hudson Highlands State Park.
    • Jun 5, 2021
  • Winnakee Land Trust Opens Vlei Marsh to the Public
  • Winnakee Land Trust Opens Vlei Marsh to the Public

    The Winnakee Land Trust opened Vlei Marsh to the public on June 1, a 165-acre nature preserve that is Rhinebeck’s second largest wetland area. Multi-looped, newly upgraded trails at Vlei Marsh take visitors through both wetland and forest, home to scores of mammals, amphibians, and birds. A 30-year-old accredited land trust and nonprofit, the WLT focuses on protecting and stewarding forests, farmland, natural habitats, and water resources from development, for both ecological health and community enjoyment. They have expanded into acquiring and maintaining land in the Hudson Valley in the past few years.
    • Jun 3, 2021
  • More »