Back to the Future
Three years on, this July 2009 interview makes interesting reading. For his story on the economics of Somali piracy, Wired contributing editor Scott Carney spoke to one of the ocean-going hijackers. They talked about how to negotiate a ransom, when to kill a hostage and how to avoid the Navy. Here’s the uncut version of that interview.
What was your job before you start this one, or what forced you to become a pirate?
Every government in the world is off our coasts. What is left for us? Nine years ago everyone in this town was stable and earn[ed] enough income from fishing. Now there is nothing. We have no way to make a living. We had to defend ourselves. We became watchmen of our coasts and took up our duty to protect the country. Don’t call us pirates. We are protectors.
How do you pirates decide on what ransom to ask for? What makes them negotiate downwards?
Once you have a ship, it’s a win-win situation. We attack many ships everyday, but only a few are ever profitable. No one will come to the rescue of a third-world ship with an Indian or African crew, so we release them immediately. But if the ship is from Western country or with valuable cargo like oil, weapons or … then it’s like winning a lottery jackpot. We begin asking a high price and then go down until we agree on a price.
How do you know what ships are off a faraway coast in the first place, and how do you know what flag it’s flying?
Often we know about a ship’s cargo, owners and port of origin before we even board it. That way we can price our demands based on its load. For those with very valuable cargo on board, then we contact the media and publicize the capture and put pressure on the companies to negotiate for its release.
From what I’ve seen, initial demands tend to be about 10 times the previous publicized ransom, is this a rule of thumb?
We know that we won’t get our initial demands, but we use it as a starting point and negotiate downwards to our eventual target. But as a rule……[access full article]