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Operation “destocking” among Somali pirates… Beware of the return, offensive

(BRUSSELS2) If it were not a question of hostages, of people, we could say that what has happened throughout these last weeks along the Somali coast resembles a “large” operation. clearance sale” or “summer sales”. The pirates only hold, according to the latest European intelligence reports, 4 ships (NB: 6 ships and 123 crew members – including 42 Filipinos – according to Ecoterra). In a few weeks, the pirates freed most of the ships they were holding, most often for cold hard cash. The Italian tugboat Buccaneer and the German freighter MV Hansa Stavanger, both detained for around four months, were released one on August 11, the other on August 4 – read the summer news in Atalanta – while the two Malaysian and Indonesian ships working for Total were released on August 3 after nearly 8 months of detention!

This “destocking” operation can be interpreted in different ways.
1st explanation: a bit like the stock market, pirates are determined to make their profits, before leaving for other adventures, or because they need new money to invest elsewhere.
2nd explanation: International pressure is at work. Pirates therefore want to reduce their sail to avoid being caught sideways and suffering an attack. In addition, having so many boats for so long mobilizes a lot of men. Another option: a reorganization has occurred within the pirates.
3rd explanation: the relative successes of the international force deployed had an effect on the personnel. Even if in a country, where the average income is a few dollars, and human life has less value than in Europe, the “repression” effect comes into play. Since June 2008, according to my statistics, international forces (EU, NATO, India, Russia, etc.) have apprehended more than 400 people suspected of piracy, including 250 brought to justice (1), 140 disarmed, as well as around forty You are. This is not enough to eliminate piracy. But, given the relative impunity that previously reigned, this is a very clear signal. Carrying out an act of piracy today becomes less assured of success than yesterday – the probability of a successful attack is 1 in 5 at the moment (1 in 3 on average in 2008, 1 in 4 in the first quarter of 2009) – and a little riskier – the risk of getting caught can be estimated at around 1 in 3. However, the advantage of millions to be won remains tempting (the ransoms paid this summer would exceed 10 million euros) in a country (Somalia) one of the poorest on the planet.
4th explanation: without forgetting the above, the pirates are mainly busy emptying their stocks, to go on the attack again (with new money - and investments -, after having re-equipped themselves with weapons and men). This is a bit the feeling of Pieter Bindt, the new commander (in the “theater”) of the EU anti-piracy operation.

More attacks and further. Confiding in a journalist from the Dutch daily, De Volkskrant, who is on board the Evertsen, the Dutch frigate, Pieter Bindt believes, in fact, that “The number of attacks against merchant ships will increase in the coming times. (…) And the area of ​​pirate activity off the coast of Somalia will expand.” With the recent releases, many pirates once again have a free hand – and the necessary money – to take new hostages. “Their attic is almost empty. They want to fill it.” assures the Dutch commander. Simultaneously, "the pirates are extending their range, now that the monsoon is coming to an end. The calmer the sea, the greater their range. This makes it more difficult to intercept hackers or prevent an attack after a call for help.” (read theVolkskrant article - in Dutch).

(1) This figure includes suspects handed over mainly to Kenya (around 110), but also to the Seychelles, Yemen, Puntland (Somalia) and a few repatriated to the Netherlands, France and the United States. Some suspects were released after a preliminary investigation. Most of the others are awaiting trial. 37 men were sentenced to 3 years in prison in Kenya on April 15, 2009. Read the anti-piracy report updated regularly.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).