Pirates vs. Paper
Former assistant to US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Mark V. Vlasic, on why international maritime law is key to defending the shipping sector against acts of piracy
It was a beautiful day off the coast of Key West. But while most people would be enjoying the sun and surf of the Keys, I found myself talking about pirates and the Law of the Sea with my hosts on a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, miles from the mainland — and only 90 miles from Cuba. And while it has been some time since the legendary pirates of yester-year have trolled the Caribbean, a new breed of pirates have been quite active on the other side of the world.
According to Coast Guard Captain Melissa Bert, a Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, in 2011, pirates attacked over 430 ships with weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, and held over 500 people hostage, killing eight. And while these attacks are now largely focused in the Gulf of Aden, not around the Florida Keys, their economic impacts are felt around the world. Piracy is estimated to cost the global economy $10 billion a year.
The Gulf of Aden is over 100,000 square miles — about twice the size of Florida — which provides ample space for pirates to attack and capture merchant ships. They have not gone unanswered. According to Captain Bert, “U.S. Navy and Coast Guard VBSS [Vessel Board Search and Seizure] teams, and special forces teams from CTF-151 [a combined task force of over 25 countries] have deployed to rescue captured ships and crew from pirates” — including a recent operation where a U.S. Navy SEAL team rescued two hostages held by pirates in Somalia.
Sadly, no matter how skilled our special forces, our naval forces in the Gulf are still effectively searching for the veritable needle in a haystack, as they patrol a vast region with a relative handful of ships. We cannot fight piracy with……….[access full Huffington Post article]