The challenges of terrorist threats. Are military and civilian anti-piracy and economic crime off the coast of Somalia effective?

Essay, 2018

6 Seiten, Note: 1,3

Robert Samuel Langner (Autor)


“Defending the edges”: responding to the challenges of terrorist threats

Essay Question: To what extent have both military and civilian anti-piracy and economic crime off the coast of Somalia been effective?

The paper below will gradually address the question of the effectiveness of military and civilian countermeasures taken so far, both by the world community and supranational organizations such as the European Union or military alliances such as NATO to counter piracy off the Somali coast. First of all the various causes and motivations of piracy in the Horn of Africa region will be discussed, followed by a closer look at pirate methods, the intensity of pirate activity, and its impact on international shipping in the Gulf of Aden in more detail.

The criminal activities of the Somali pirates began with the violent capture of a Cypriot merchant ship called Penagia Tinou on June 15, 2002. Although it was more or less random that two German warships (122 frigates of the Bremen class, FGS Bremen and FGS Emden) handled the case, but the captured hostages were released by paying the required ransom after 16 days. In the context of this case, it is no surprise that these tactics became common practice in the following years, when pirates took sea hostages.1

At this point it is essential to identify the causes of the phenomenon of modern piracy in the 21st century and to examine their significance. Since the fall of the last stable Somali government, led by Siad Barre, in 1991, in connection with the Somali civil war, many other problems have developed that have further worsened the economic, political and humanitarian situation in Somalia.

On the one hand, as a result, the territorial waters, perhaps most significantly the Exclusive Economic Zone, were rendered barely possible to moniter in the absence of a functioning coastal protection authority.

On the other hand, the Somali central government collapsed completely, so that de facto no more state power was exercised, and the country sank in anarchy and lawlessness, prime breeding grounds for criminal structures to develop, completely undisturbed and firmly established. Furthermore, due to the lack of police or sovereign law enforcement, especially in Somali waters, foreign ships dumped toxic waste off the coast, an action which had a negative and sometimes serious impact on the health of the population. Both this circumstance and the predominantly illegal overfishing of waters by foreign high seas fishing fleets has been instrumental in making the famine in Somalia massively worse and depriving Somali fishermen of their primary livelihood, leaving many to turn to criminal behaviour to secure their very existence.

Another incentive for piracy, however, is the need for a (albeit extra-legal) coastal and trade protection to safeguard fishing grounds from intruders or for the so-called, supposedly legitimate, 'royalties' blackmailed by other fishermen.2

In the beginning, pirate raids concentrated on the coastlines of Mogadishu and the southern parts of Somalia. However, their activities soon shifted to the much more lucrative Gulf of Aden on the north coast. As a result, the de facto autonomous and relatively stable region of Puntland in the north, with its ports of Eyl, Harardheere and Hobyo, have become a stronghold of piracy.

The various pirate militias are made up of three more precisely identifiable groups: Former fishermen with comparatively professional knowledge in the nautical field, former civil war fighters and mercenaries of locally organized so-called warlords, and technically adept personnel who are able to operate navigation devices and satellite telephones.3

According to a study by Chatham House, a total of 61 successful or attempted raids on ships off Somalia were reported from January to mid-September 2008, with total pirate ransoms for 2008 totaling $18 to $30 million. A representative of the Kenyan government even said in November 2008 that the pirates had received ransom payments of more than $150 million (about € 120 million) in Somalia over the past 12 months. According to the International Maritime Bureau, 42 ships were successfully captured in 2008. As a result of the control measures, however, the number of successful pirate attacks has declined sharply, so in December 2008, only a subsequent two ships had been hijacked.

According to a study by the German Institute for Economic Research, citing figures from the International Maritime Bureau, the number of pirate attacks had continued to increase despite the start of military action. In the first half of 2010, 84 attacks were reported, and 27 ships hijacked. The piracy in the Gulf of Aden had fallen but piracy had increased in the Somali basin and the Indian Ocean.

In 2011, the peak number of ships attacked was reached; 250. In the following years, however, piracy in the Horn of Africa has fallen rapidly. Among other things, this was due in part to the increased military presence of the most diverse navies in the world patrolling the area, paired with the increased use of private security personnel on the ships of many shipping companies, acting as both a defence and a deterrent against pirate attacks.

The main reasons for this in the context of the military reaction are the deterioration in the deliveries of the World Food Program. Deliveries were, for the most part, carried out by sea, and the threat to free trade through the important shipping routes of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal4 made intervention of paramount importance.

Observing piracy off the coast of Somalia, it is possible to detect parallels between methods also used by terrorists. They also attack targets where they are most vulnerable and subsequently inflict massive damage on the vulnerable, voilitile world trade system. Even though it is mainly about pursuing individual or group-based persecution, and asserting particular economic interests and ideological motivation seems to be lacking, pirates use terrorist means and are not afraid of using lethal force and torture.

Other measures to combat piracy include the deployment of Somaliland forces alongside a naval force equipped by Britain. The de facto forces have seen hundreds of arrests of pirates since 2009, most often leading to criminal convictions.

Likewise, pirates in Somalia are under pressure from attacks by the radical Islamic Al-Shabab militias, who are also part of the armed opposition to the interim government, but in solidarity with Muslim seafarers who have been taken hostage and out of Islamic legal understanding Support piracy.5

Paradoxically, the strengthening of the Union of Islamic Courts in 2006 led to a partial stabilization of the country as well as the suppression of violence in the country. At the end of the year it was again largely disempowered by the interim government.

To summarize and conclude, in order to answer the question at the outset, it is not possible to draw a clear picture of the situation on the ground. There are conflicting reports of the growth and decline of Somali piracy, but it can be said that in December 2011, there were only two attacks on cargo ships. In 2015, not a single attack had been recorded. Since 2016, however, the United Nations has been warning about the resurgence of piracy in connection with the withdrawal of warships from the international coalition. Since the spring of 2017 there have been no more attacks. In this way, the United Nations, the United States of America, the European Union, and NATO, as well as dozens of other states, including Russia, China, and Japan, have contributed significantly to the massive repression of the country’s piracy problem through the principles of deterrence, prevention and control, but the Naval forces have also discovered their limits.6 For example, piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the main trade route in the region, has declined, but has increased again in southern Somalia and the Indian Ocean.

The humanitarian situation has improved as a result of the presence of warships, because the structures on land have been smashed in the long term. In addition, the overfishing and dumping of toxic waste into Somali waters has decreased and food prices in Somalia have also fallen as a result of the reduction in piracy. A maritime approach alone, cannot effectively and long-term combat the causes of the issue. Naval units must therefore be constantly present in order to be effective, which in turn is associated with a high human and material burden on the participating navies, a physical restraint by which the key international forces are bound.


1 Vijay Sakhuja, Asymmetric Warfare And Low Intensity Maritime Operations: Challenges For Indian Navy

2 Horand Knaup, Reiche Beute, arme Fischer, in: Spiegel Online, 12. April 2008.

3 Kathryn Westcott, Somalia's pirates face battles at sea, in: BBC News. 23. April 2008.

4 International Maritime Organization, Piracy in waters off the coast of Somalia (2007).

5 Islamisten jagen Piraten: Wut über Kaperung "muslimischen Schiffes", In: Frankfurter Rundschau. 22. November 2008; Euronews, Somalische Rebellen gehen gegen Piraten vor (21 November 2008)

6 Sebastian Bruns: Multipolarity Under the Magnifying-Glass: Establishing Maritime Security Off the Horn of Africa. In: Sicherheit und Frieden 3-2009, S. 174-179.

Ende der Leseprobe aus 6 Seiten


The challenges of terrorist threats. Are military and civilian anti-piracy and economic crime off the coast of Somalia effective?
University of Glasgow  (Department of History)
Core Course
ISBN (eBook)
Counter Piracy, Asymmetric Warfare, Somalia, Djibouti, Atalanta, European Union, World Food Programme, Fishing, Maritime Pollution, United Nations, Naval Warfare, Counter Terrorism, Merchant Navy, World Trade, Economy, Trading Routes, Gulf of Aden, NATO, German Navy
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Robert Samuel Langner (Autor), 2018, The challenges of terrorist threats. Are military and civilian anti-piracy and economic crime off the coast of Somalia effective?, München, GRIN Verlag,


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