The arrest of personnel involved in paying ransoms has certainly puzzled some in the industry, and has created yet another problem for shipowners
In jailing six foreigners after they took £2.2m ($3.6m) into the country to airdrop as a ransom for a hijacked vessel the Somali authorities have made rather more problems than they have fixed.
Firstly it will alter the logistics of ransom payments – aircraft intended for air drops will now have to take off and land outside Somalia, while it is believed that fast private escort vessels may now be used for payments.
Whatever the practical solutions, the problems for the shipping industry are real and add to the delicate situation of having to pay large sums of money to undesirables. It is becoming more difficult to pay ransoms because countries require political top cover to allow their airports to be used as a forward staging post for the delivery of a ransom, plus the latest US trend is to follow the money, not the pirates.
The Somali charges were illegally bringing money into the country, carrying cash intended to pay ransoms and landing in Mogadishu without the correct papers. Though there are many questions which remain unanswered as to why this ransom was seized. While we can debate the rights and wrongs of payment, the fact remains that prompt payment ensures that seafarers are freed, anything which slows or bans payment puts people’s lives at risk.