Piracy…What’s your endgame

December 2008


Congratulations to USNI for joining the blogosphere! This is a great forum to expand the outstanding strategic and independent discussions that USNI is renowned for. I am honored to be a part of this and hope to do my part to encourage interesting and impactful thought and dialogue.

I recently posted on my own blog, iCommandant, about the international approach needed to address the maritime aspects of the piracy problem off the Horn of Africa.

I also discussed this issue in detail with the Army Times Publishing Company’s editorial board. Here is a video of that discussion:
Army Times Ed. Board


Posted by TAllen in Foreign Policy, Maritime Security
Tags: , , ,

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  • Byron

    Admiral, where it says, “Deliver into custody a coastal State party”, does this mean it must be the state of those in custody, or can it be any state in the region? And how can these “coastal States” prosecute a citizen of another country? Granted, the words “country” and “nation” barely apply to Somalia, but, there it is. This sounds good on paper, but you’d almost have to have a legal officer who can vet the arrests and designate where these pirates might eventually be detained to and then prosecuted.

  • http://informationdissemination.blogspot.com/ Yankee Sailor

    I’m not convinced there is an endgame.

    The piracy problem in the Horn of Africa looks more and more like the drug smuggling problem on the American coasts every day. The application of maritime forces can change the way pirates operate and influence to pace of pirates’ operations, but as long as there’s money to be made and the risk of death or arrest is acceptable, the pirates will be there.

  • http://www.uscg.mil/comdt/blog TAllen

    Legitimate issue … but …
    Delivery of suspects can be made to any State in the region, particularly those that are contracting parties to the SUA Convention. Because piracy is one of the few “universal offenses” in international law, any country can prosecute a pirate, regardless of the pirate’s nationality. For example, US law (18 USC 1651) permits this. The question is which countries in and out of the region have domestic law that fully implements the international law against piracy. The beauty of using the SUA Convention is that contracting states to SUA have an obligation to implement domestic laws to enable them to investigate and then extradite or prosecute, so there’s a clear process in place (or supposed to be) for contracting states to SUA. We’re not contemplating prosecutions in or extraditions from Somalia – like you alluded to, there’s not sufficient judicial infrastructure there to manage this challenge.

    That is the reason the additional language that we fought for in the UNSCR regarding SUA is so important.

    Yankee Sailor,
    I agree with the way you’ve described the situation: the application of maritime force is not a complete solution. A complete solution would need to include getting Somalia’s security, government, and economy re-established and on the upswing. That said, the pirates are attacking less than 1% of all vessels transiting to the Gulf of Aden, so the application of maritime force to prevent, deter, and disrupt piratical acts coupled with efforts by to make ships less vulnerable to attack can make a real difference. For those measures to be effective, the nations of the world, international organizations, and industry need to partner, coordinate, and, in some cases, integrate their operations and efforts. We at least have to be better organized than the pirates and we’re taking steps in that direction now.

    Additional Comment:
    We have had success within the U.S. Government “interagency” using what we call a Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR) protocol. MOTR is one of the eight supporting plans required by the National Strategy for Maritime Security (NSMS). We have had great success in coordinating U.S. response to international incidents by clearly defining the issue, the objective, the desired outcome and the lead entity. This is the process we use for drug and migrant interdiction cases. We believe there is a role for this type of structure internationally to involve impacted nations and mutually agree on an outcome. In the case of piracy this would involve, as discussed above, the appropriate venue for legal action. We are currently engaged in the interagency and internationally through fora such as the International Maritime Organization to create such a process.

    ADM A

  • http://informationdissemination.blogspot.com/ Yankee Sailor

    ADM A,

    You stated: “[T]he application of maritime force to prevent, deter, and disrupt piratical acts coupled with efforts by to make ships less vulnerable to attack can make a real difference.”

    The trick here is defining “a real difference”. Any idea if the EU has settled on how much piracy in the region is acceptable and under what conditions they will declare victory and sail away?

    Also, with some thumbnail analysis it looks to me like the EU’s coalition is willing to commit from $100m to perhaps as much as $300m to the anti-piracy effort over the next year. One industry source has estimated the cost of piracy may approach $16b per year. What’s your confiden