Somali pirate killing unlikely to cut attacks
The killing of a pirate during a shoot-out with private security guards travelling on board a cargo ship this week is unlikely to deter armed gangs operating in Somalia's coastal waters, an analyst said. The killing, the first of its kind, took place on Tuesday when a whaler and two skiffs operated by pirates attacked the Panama-flagged cargo ship MV Almezaan.
"It's unlikely that a single incident of a pirate being shot is going to alter their calculations," Roger Middleton, a piracy expert with the London-based think tank Chatham House, told the German Press Agency dpa. "It is inherently dangerous going out to sea in a smaller boat and trying to get on a bigger one."
According to the European Union's anti-piracy force EU NAVFOR Somalia, two separate attacks on the MV Almezaan were repelled by the armed guards.
When the Spanish frigate ESPS Navarra responded to a distress call and intercepted the boats believed to have carried out the attack, they found six suspected pirates and the bullet-riddled body of a seventh.
Such incidents are expected to become more common as some shipping companies turn to private security teams to protect their ships. Prior to the deadly incident, there had already been several incidents of gun battles between pirates and security detachments on private vessels.
The shipping industry is split over how to deal with the pirate menace, which has exploded over the last few years.
The International Maritime Bureau and the US Navy has long advised shipping firms to employ non-lethal defensive measures, such as travelling in convoys, putting up barbed wire around the ship and creating safe rooms for the crew.
Shipping experts also worry that pirates will be driven to more violent tactics, such as firing rocket-propelled grenades at vessels, by private security. There has already been some anecdotal evidence of this.
There is little to suggest that an increased threat of death will stop young Somalis taking to the seas in search of multimillion-dollar ransoms.
The pirates were not put off by the arrival of dozens of international warships, simply moving from the Gulf of Aden further out into the Indian Ocean to avoid patrols. Nor did the killing of three young Somalis by the US Navy during a hostage drama last year prompt a fall in attacks.
Too much money is at stake and the alternative is a life of poverty in Somalia, a nation which has had no effective central government for 19 years and is viewed as one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
"The basic calculation is that they stay at home and make a few hundred dollars per year or become a pirate and make 10 000 in a few months," Middleton said.
There was no immediate word if an inquiry would be conducted into the killing, which strays into the confusing world of the international law of the sea.
While the Spanish navy arrested the suspected pirates and will likely hand them over to Kenya or the Seychelles for prosecution, the security detachment was left untouched.
According to Douglas Guilfoyle, a lecturer at University College London and an expert in maritime law, any legal process would likely begin in Panama.
"The starting point is that the events will be governed by the law of the flag State of the vessel," he told dpa.
"Alternatively, the government of Somalia would have a legal interest in the death of one of its citizens; but given the present state of government in Somalia the prospect of any Somali judicial process ... seems more theoretical than real."
In such cases, Guilfoyle said that most criminal law systems would recognise lawful self-defence, although if the force used was judged to be illegal and excessive, it could invalidate the vessel's insurance.
But even if the private security firms are on solid legal ground when firing in self defence, there is concern over the lack of regulation in the industry.
"One things with private security companies is that they are not regulated; there isn't even an industry body which ensure standards," Middleton said.