Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gulf of Aden

Pirate Payoff

Am I the only one outraged upon reading that a Singapore-based shipping line has just paid a $4 million ransom to Somali pirates for the release of one of its container ships, the Kota Wajar? The world barely notices; the news is relegated to a minor paragraph buried on the inside pages of the newspapers in the usual “world news” roundups. We ought to be more concerned because the waters off East Africa are an important transit point for global shipping, and every ransom paid makes it more likely that ships will be hijacked in future. In fact, the very day that the Kota Wajar was released, two more vessels were seized — a British-flagged chemical tanker and a Panama-flagged bulk cargo ship. Not surprising, paying off pirates encourages more piracy.

Yet Western nations refuse to sanction shipping lines for their amoral policy or to undertake a more robust response — such as ordering naval ships to fire on suspected pirates or hauling captured pirates into their own courts. Keep in mind that these seizures occur in the Gulf of Aden near the coast not only of Somalia but also of Yemen, two countries emerging as major al-Qaeda bases. No doubt some of the piratical proceeds will find their way into the terrorists’ pockets, if they haven’t already. Where’s the outrage?

Am I the only one outraged upon reading that a Singapore-based shipping line has just paid a $4 million ransom to Somali pirates for the release of one of its container ships, the Kota Wajar? The world barely notices; the news is relegated to a minor paragraph buried on the inside pages of the newspapers in the usual “world news” roundups. We ought to be more concerned because the waters off East Africa are an important transit point for global shipping, and every ransom paid makes it more likely that ships will be hijacked in future. In fact, the very day that the Kota Wajar was released, two more vessels were seized — a British-flagged chemical tanker and a Panama-flagged bulk cargo ship. Not surprising, paying off pirates encourages more piracy.

Yet Western nations refuse to sanction shipping lines for their amoral policy or to undertake a more robust response — such as ordering naval ships to fire on suspected pirates or hauling captured pirates into their own courts. Keep in mind that these seizures occur in the Gulf of Aden near the coast not only of Somalia but also of Yemen, two countries emerging as major al-Qaeda bases. No doubt some of the piratical proceeds will find their way into the terrorists’ pockets, if they haven’t already. Where’s the outrage?

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