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The United States and international agencies are being forced to take serious action against piracy offshore of Somalia. Pirate groups operating along the coasts of Somalia, Nigeria and Tanzania, as well as in the Gulf of Aden, have become a formidable threat to international trade in the region.
Piracy has diminished the amount of oil shipments, affecting U.S. strategic energy supplies.
To protect shipping interests in the area, a United Nations Security Council resolution, pushed by Washington and passed on June 2, allows the U.S. and its coalition allies to intervene by “all necessary means” for the next six months to stop piracy off the Somali coast. Coalition ships have since scared off pirates in at least two attacks, said the London-based International Maritime Bureau.
Piracy has also hampered business practices and humanitarian efforts in the region. Some ships have been forced to alter course by as much as a hundred miles to avoid Somali pirates—costing up to a full days worth of fuel to ensure the safe arrival of cargo and crew. UN World Food Programme efforts have also been put at risk, requiring military escorts to ensure the arrival of relief supplies.
Acts of piracy along the East African coastline have increased in the past years, accounting for 56% of all reported pirate attacks in the first half of 2008.
The attacks are usually violent, with the attackers often armed with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades. Along with hijacking vessels, pirates often hold crews for ransom.
The U.S., which has successfully dealt with piracy in Indonesia, cites that its success stemmed from cooperation and communication with the local government. For East Africa, however, the same solution is unlikely to work with the largely unstable governments in these areas. Admiral Timothy Keating of the U.S. Pacific Command stated, “If you were to try to call the leader of Somalia and ask to come for a visit, who do you call?”