In providing easy targets on the sea to

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order to fathom a comprehensive approach to the issue of piracy in the region,
it is first of paramount importance to understand the causes of piracy.

Geography is the first explanatory factor; the area is close to major
transportation routes, it has been estimated that 20,000 ships per year go
through the region, this provides ample opportunity for pirates to hijack or
rob vessels.1 Furthermore,
the political landscape is such that there is extremely weak law enforcement in
Somalia after years of civil conflict, thus increasing the likelihood of
illegal activities such as piracy.2 The final
cause of piracy I will focus on is poverty and the humanitarian crisis that occurred
in the preceding years. Somalia is a deprived country, with the average salary
standing at less than $2 a day. This level of poverty prompted a major
international relief mission which delivered over 32,000 tonnes of aid a month,
thus providing easy targets on the sea to capitalize on.3 There is no
doubt that the causes of piracy are extremely diverse, this perhaps signals
that the international response must also be comprehensive and multi-faceted, I
will now critically evaluate the maritime and land-based solutions to piracy .


argument that disorder at sea such as piracy can only be dealt with at sea
supports the narrow view of sea-power defined as ‘military power deployed at
and from the sea’.4 I will now
assess the case for this response, with specific reference to counter-piracy strategies
off the Horn of Africa. International efforts to address piracy at sea have
been impressive, NATO first sent vessels but withdrew in 2009. Since then
EUNAVFOR, the European Union’s first major maritime mission has been
established, with a flotilla consisting of 7 frigates, 3 corvettes and one
submarine. This is then supported by Combined Task Force 151, which is a
multi-national effort.5  This international effort has in some regards
found success; humanitarian aid has been successfully delivered to Somalia as a
result of an EU and NATO presence.6 Furthermore, a key aim of
Operation Atalanta is the protection of vulnerable shipping naval forces. This
strategy firstly involved the creation of an internationally recommended
transit corridor, which has proved to be successful; there have only been three
attacks on ships using the transit corridor. Secondly, in order to protect
vessels, ships have the ability to request assistance from international naval forces
should they come under attack. The success of this approach has been debatable;
the IMB reports that 50 attacks were deserted as a result of the arrival of
naval ships from 2008 to 2009, however deterrence was not perfect as there were
251 attacks during this period.7 A final
maritime response to piracy off the coast of Somalia concerns the introduction
of Best Management Practices. BMP 3 contains specific advice on safety
protocols, suggestions include travelling at more than 180 knots and
reinforcing windows with bullet-proof glass. BMP 3 is an important tool in combating
piracy and promoting vessel ‘target hardening’ and has been relatively
successful in mitigating piracy attacks in the region.8 However once
again there is a concrete necessity for cooperation and the sharing of best
practices, with African countries currently lacking the knowledge and resources
to put into effect the prescribed suggestions and protocols. 9

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importance of cooperation between different institutions and states cannot be
underestimated here, so much so that the counter-piracy operation off the Horn
of Africa has developed into one of the most cited case studies of collective
sea-power.10 This strategy
has the potential to lay the foundation for all future maritime missions
concerning piracy.11 Although I
agree that in many ways the international maritime response to piracy in the
region has been fruitful, there are inherent issues with this strategy.

Firstly, the area that has to be monitored covers 2 million square miles, covering
this area would necessitate an unprecedented naval presence. These issues have
become even more astute as attacks have moved further down the coasts of
Somalia, hence underscoring the ‘balloon effect’ associated with dealing with a
risk that is fungible and ever-changing.12 Another difficulty
is the cost of the operation; the EU accounted over $450 million to run the
ATLANTA fleet in 2009, this level of expense may prove unsustainable,
particularly given the current climate of declining defense budgets across
Europe.13 With increasing resources
for containing piracy through maritime means, there is less investment
available for more viable land-based solutions, which are integral to any long
term strategy. For example, it would be possible to fund 100,000 police
officers for six months for the same price as deploying a frigate to the Horn
of Africa.14 Ultimately,
the most fundamental weakness of tackling piracy exclusively at sea is that it
attempts to confront piracy at its conclusion, rather than addressing it at its
origin; on shore. While a decrease in piracy activities since 2011 indicates
the triumph of EU and NATO interventions, where a reduction in piracy can be connected
to an enhanced military response as well as increased security precautions by
shipping companies, none of these ‘on the sea’ strategies have succeeded in undoing
piracy systems and therefore only provide a temporary stopgap measure.15 Ultimately,
naval deployments and frigates have little relevance to the territorial ‘push’ factors
such as unemployment and low economic development which instigate piracy in the
first place.16


2011 the EU has recognised that its approach to anti-piracy also had to
encompass land-based approaches to addressing the problem, alongside its well
defined maritime strategy.17 The first
area of land-based solutions employed by the international community I will
evaluate concerns law enforcement strategies. This range of programmes aims to improve
the legal and police capabilities in Somalia, through strategies such as
security sector reform, the establishment of surveillance and enhancing legal
capacities to prosecute piracy suspect.18 The
prosecution programme is supported by naval forces at sea or through the UNODC’s
counter piracy programme on land, this involves a significant amount of
cooperation and further demonstrates that for piracy to be tackled successfully
there must be a joint effort on behalf of land and sea.19 A further element of the
current land-based strategy includes judicial agreements with Kenya, whereby
Kenya will act as a third-party in order to prosecute individuals alleged of
being involved in maritime crimes.20 The international
community realised that local trials in Somalia would be impossible due to fear
of corruption, however the court structure in Kenya is inefficient, corrupt and
several trials have collapsed.21 The final
law-enforcement land-based strategy I will assess is prevention through
surveillance. This strategy is a pillar of the IMO organised Djibouti Process,
this involves collecting information and surveilling pirate activities on land.

This can be successful as it aims to provide the shipping industry with
improved early warning information and also acts as a deterrent to pirates.22 However, there
are inherent issues with these law-enforcement approaches to solving piracy on
land; the measures outlined above do not provide long-term sustainable
solutions to piracy. Bueger defines the the aforementioned strategy as a ‘security’
approach, which treats piracy as an ‘existential threat’ to international
security and simply enhances a countries legal and security capabilities.23 This ‘security-first’
logic is questionable and tends to lead to ad hoc policies that fail to properly
engage with local communities.24 There is
therefore no doubt that the international response needs to focus more
succinctly on land-based solutions to piracy that focus on a development rather
than security based logic.


will now evaluate the current international approaches to land-based solutions
from the development perspective. Ounouha contends that it is important to confront
the root causes of piracy in Somalia rather than ‘reacting to this symptom of a
deeper malaise’.25 As outlined
in the causes of piracy, failures in governance has caused deep issues in
Somali society and human development has been hindered.26 Therefore, the
alternative to law enforcement approaches is an assortment of projects which use
a development model in aiming to address the foundational causes of piracy.27The first strategy
involves enhancing cooperation with local communities. The international
counter piracy programme has introduced initiatives such as awareness campaigns
and meetings involving naval forces and village elders, the consequence of this
is that these groups have become less marginalised and the resistance to piracy
points to the ‘declining success of the coastguard narrative as a means of
legitimising piracy’.28 A further strategy
employed by the international community involves the introduction of alternative
livelihood programmes. Many Somali people have little other training aside from
weapons and military tactics, therefore their options for a legitimate career
are limited.29
Therefore, Murphy and Saba emphasise the advantages of infrastructure projects
such as building roads linking ports to cities; thus giving employment
opportunities and economic advantages to local areas.30 These
development orientated onshore projects are limited, with only $3 million
spent, whereas naval operations cost around $2bn.31 The
strategies outlined above are inherently different to ‘on the sea’ responses
and are often overlooked by the international community, who focus too heavily
upon short term results and a tough, security focused approach to piracy.

Although law enforcement and inter-state cooperation has improved, it is uncertain
how sustainable these structures are in the long run and piracy is likely to reoccur
if a different approach is not adopted.32


this essay I have evaluated the statement of whether disorder at sea can only
be dealt with at sea. Through critically assessing the case study of piracy off
the Horn of Africa I have found that the statement can be discounted. I first
looked at the causes of piracy in the region, finding numerous different ‘push’
factors which indicated a comprehensive approach would need to be employed. I
then assessed the ‘on the sea’ response, finding that, though impressive and
successful, it does not represent a long-term sustainable approach. Finally, I
evaluated the land-based responses to piracy, finding that many elements of the
current approach focus too heavily on a security based logic. Finally I
appraised the development-based response to piracy, discovering that though the
results are indirect and unknown, they represent a strategy that needs to be
explored and funded in the coming years to provide a more sustainable solution
to piracy. To conclude, there is no doubt that an exhaustive approach to piracy
must include some element of land-based approaches to tackle the issue at its
root. In the meantime, the international response must employ a strategy that
includes synergies between naval operations, prevention, surveillance and
development support to ensure piracy continues to decline in the region.


1. Christian Bueger, “Learning from Piracy: Future
Challenges of Maritime Security Governance”, Forthcoming in Global Affairs,
1, no.1 (2015): 33-42

2. Justin Hastings, “Geographies of state failure and
sophistication in maritime piracy hijackings.” Political Geography,
28, no. 4 (2009): 213-223.

3. Peter Chalk. “Piracy off the horn of Africa:
scope, dimensions, causes and responses.” The Brown Journal of World
Affairs, 16, no. 2 (2010): 89-108.

4. Eric Grove. The future of seapower, London, 1990

5. Chalk. “Piracy off the horn of Africa: scope,
dimensions, causes and responses.”

6. Ibid

7. Sarah Percy and Anja Shortland,  “The business of piracy in
Somalia.” Journal of Strategic Studies, 36, no. 4 (2013): 541-578.

8. Stig Jarle Hansen, “The evolution of best
management practices in the civil maritime sector.” Studies in Conflict &
Terrorism, 35, no. 7-8 (2012): 562-569.

9. Ibid

10. Geoffrey Till, “Maintaining good order at sea:
Maritime security at home and away” In “Seapower.” A Guide for the
Twenty-First Century, 3rd ed, (London: Taylor and Francis, 2013): 282-317

11. Chalk. “Piracy off the horn of Africa: scope,
dimensions, causes and responses.”

12 Chalk, “Piracy off the Horn of Africa”


14. Ibid

15. Neil Winn and Alexandra Lewis, “European Union
anti-piracy initiatives in the Horn of Africa: linking land-based
counter-piracy with maritime security and regional development.” Third
World Quarterly (2017): 1-16.

16. Chalk. “Piracy off the horn of Africa: scope,
dimensions, causes and responses.”

17. Winn and Lewis, “European Union anti-piracy
initiatives in the Horn of Africa”

18. Christian Bueger, “Drops in the bucket? A review
of onshore responses to Somali piracy.” WMU Journal of Maritime Affairs
11, no. 1 (2012): 15-31,

19 Bueger, Learning from piracy

20 Chalk, “Piracy off the Horn of

21. Percy and Shortland, “The business of piracy in

22. Bueger, “Drops in the bucket?”

23. Ibid

24. Winn and Lewis, “European Union anti-piracy
initiatives in the Horn of Africa”

25. Ounouha, “Sea piracy and
maritime security in the Horn of Africa”

26. Ibid

27 Bueger, “Drops in the bucket”

28 Bueger, “Learning from piracy’

29 Bueger, “Drops in the bucket”

30. Martin Murphy and Joseph Saba, “Countering
Piracy: The Potential of Onshore Development.” In Global Challenge,
Regional Responses: Forging a Common Approach to Maritime Piracy. A
public-private counter-piracy conference organised by the UAE Ministry of
Foreign Affairs in association with DP World. 2011.

31. Bueger, “Drops in the bucket?”

32 Bueger, “Learning from piracy”

Categories: Case Study


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