Summary of the Facts
Concerns over shipping information security have been raised as a result of increased attacks and piracy on the West African Coast in the recent past. The 73,400 dwt Orfeas ship went missing recently off Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. Nigeria, Benin, Togo and The Gulf of Guinea have been the epicenter of recent attacks with the latter recording 44 attacks in 2012.
Statement of the Problem
The 73,400 dwt Orfeas attack raises concerns over security of the crew on-board. These attacks also raise more concerns on the relevant maritime and other legislation as well as standards safeguarding the safety of the crew on board. The hijackers usually divert the sailing path of the ship for about 7 to 10 days, a period during which the operation is carried out. Once it’s done, the ship is released with all the crew members unharmed. It remains a mystery how the pirates communicate and coordinate while the crew is on-board.
Causes of the Problem
Sources in the beleaguered Niger Delta oil city indicate that many of these attackers were militants at one time. The government of Nigeria promised the militants some jobs, a promise that was never fulfilled. Many turned to ship piracy not only as a source of income but also revenge because many ships are heavily centered on government interests. (Silvia Ciotti Galletti, 2012)
Little surveillance because of the threat posed by the 9/11 attacks have also been cited as a prime cause. Concomitant pressure has since been exerted on many governments to invest a lot in land-based homeland security tactics. This pressure has resulted in a further reduction of resources that were already considered too limited. The position of these vessels in the sea is often too easy for the hijackers to determine and attack (Anna, P & Geib, R 2011).
Ship hijacks are old crimes that have existed for more than 30 centuries. Being an “old profession”, it is so rooted so that uprooting it requires more than the current legislation (The Netherlands Institute for the Law at Sea, 2001). Since legal schemes are developed on boundaries, the hijackers find it conducive to carry on their activities in a coastline which is not highly regulated.
High levels of corruption in court and judicial structures that are easily compromised have encouraged complicity in pirate rings especially in African countries. Involvement of the courts has been very extensive, not only in the court but also provision of intelligence on the movement of the ship, its location and helping the hijackers to carry out a rapid discharge of stolen goods without raising alarm instantly.
According to Chalk, C, Smallman, L, Burger, N 2009, the government plays an active role in protecting its territorial waters. Absence of a stable government in some countries such as Somalia and Sierra Leone provides gangs with an enabling environment where they enjoy a free-run. The gangs end up formulating their own rules that sabotage sailors and rob them of all their goods.
Another identified cause is the global proliferation of arms that provides ship pirates with enhanced means of operating on a more sophisticated and destructive level. Many rifles are available in Europe, Asia and Africa at an affordable cost. These ammunitions include rocket-propelled grenades, hand-held mines and automatic assault rifles. They are durable and easily accessible in many countries (Chalk, C, Smallman, L, Burger, N 2009).
Many people at the West Coast of Africa live below one dollar a day and one solution to reduce ship piracy is to provide them with jobs and other income-generating opportunities. The governments can engage in dialogue with the militants and come up with an amicable solution. This can be done through public campaigns on the dangers of ship hijacking and how best to generate income through legal ways. (Silvia Ciotti Galletti, 2012)
Aerial surveillance should be beefed up at the coastal region. The navy or police forces should go and get hold of the pirates after the hijacked vessel has been released so that there is no risk of hostages. Governments should be committed to this constructive process by purchasing the necessary equipment. The crew on board should be trained to face off with the pirates in a worst case scenario (Anna, P & Geib, R 2011).
Corruption should be fought in all countries by all means. (James Kraska, 2011) Formation of an independent anticorruption commission can help to investigate piracy crimes. In countries where the judicial system is heavily rooted in corruption, the judicial system should be disbanded and reconstituted anew. Maritime laws should be formulated to address the problems at hand and security and support given to investigating teams.
According to Chalk, C, Smallman, L, Burger, N 2009, a policy should be formed at the global arena to help regulate accessibility of rifles. Rifle manufacturing firms should be regulated by all governments to ensure that they sell rifles to licensed groups such as police force and military at the express permission of the head of state of the government in question. This will help to ensure that arms are not sold to pirates.
Fighting piracy is not an easy task. All the stakeholders should be committed in this dream to ensure security of their inmates and external trade partners.
James Kraska, 2011, Contemporary Maritime Piracy: International Law, Diplomacy and Strategy at Sea, 1st edn, Praeger Publishers Inc., USA
Anna, P & Geib, R 2011, Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea: The Legal Framework for Counter-Piracy Operations in Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, 1st edn, pp.137-151, Oxford University Press, USA
Silvia Ciotti Galletti, 2012, Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: Logistics, Strategies and Scenarios, 1st edn, pp.120-124, IOS Press BV, Netherlands
Chalk, C, Smallman, L, Burger, N 2009, Countering Piracy in the Modern Era: Notes from a RAND Workshop to Discuss the Best Approaches for Dealing with Piracy in the 21st Century, RAND Corporation, CA, USA
The Netherlands Institute for the Law at Sea, 2001, International Organizations and the Law of the Sea: Documentanry Yearbook, Kluwer Law International, The Hague, Netherlands