Anti piracy missions fail to make high seas safer | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 21.07.2010
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Anti piracy missions fail to make high seas safer

The international military effort to curb piracy has not improved the situation off the horn off Africa. A study released in Germany suggests that piracy remains a flourishing and safe enterprise for the pirates.

Cargo vessel with a target symbol

Cargo ships remain a lucrative target for pirates

The presence of international war ships has failed to curtail pirate attacks, the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) said on Wednesday. The naval missions did not deter the pirates but merely resulted in the attacks shifting from the Gulf of Aden to the open seas in the Indian Ocean.

In December 2008, the European Union launched its Atalanta military mission to operate alongside NATO and US-led military efforts to safeguard cargo ships travelling through the Gulf of Aden into the Indian Ocean. Germany currently contributes 250 soldiers and one frigate to the naval mission.

Since the beginning of the anti-piracy mission, the number of attacks has in fact doubled, according to the study. In 2008, some 111 ships were attacked; one year later the figure was 217.

Piracy vital for Somali economy

A German frigate

The EU's Atalanta mission has been operating off the Horn of Africa since 2008

Piracy remains the most important commercial sector in Somalia, with a whole string of profiteers ranging from unemployed Somalis to guards, negotiators, translators and even private citizens who agree to house the kidnapped sailors.

"The important players in the region all have an interest in piracy continuing as long as the situation doesn't escalate and the demands for ransom don't skyrocket," Anja Shortland of the DIW told reporters.

"Piracy remains a comparatively safe business for Somalis," she said. The presence of the international naval missions was simply not big enough to cover the whole area where the pirates are operating.

Insurance companies also benefit by selling anti-piracy policies, as do shipyards given the job of repairing ships that have been damaged by pirates.

Attacks off the Somali coast have become a growing concern for international shipping companies over the years. The East African country has experienced decades of civil war and unrest, but the waters off Somalia are one of the world's busiest and most important shipping routes.

Author: Andreas Illmer (AFP/dpa/apn)
Editor: Susan Houlton

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