More Than Force

Thomas Ernst from EUNAVFOR believes that pirates operating off the Somali coast will not be defeated by force alone.

“It is arguable how much of a deterrent effect counter-piracy forces are having”. More should be done to stop the money flow to pirate gangs and to target their leaders, he added.

It is clear that the International naval forces are having some effect and are indeed learning from past mistakes  – they have so far stopped 120 pirate attacks this year, compared with 21 in 2009.

Somali pirates have “developed their capabilities and now have influence over a vast area”, said Mr Ernst, who is EUNAVFOR’s deputy operations commander.

The presence of international forces off the Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden has pushed pirates further afield, where they hijack larger vessels.

Recently, pirates have operated as far south as Tanzania and Madagascar, with the easternmost attack just short of the southern Indian coast on 5 December.

“The rewards from piracy continue to outweigh the risks,” Mr Ernst said.

He criticised that a weak legal system means that “the chances of getting caught are relatively low and the probability of being tried is even smaller”.

Counter-piracy efforts should include support for the Somali government to improve the country’s prison system, Mr Ernst said.

Of the 400 pirates captured by Navfor this year, only 15 are to stand trial, he added.

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