Why Somali Piracy Has to Stop
- Piracy is escalating, it not just an Indian Ocean problem anymore

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(This story has also been posted in the Blog section, on April 7, 2011)

Sri Lankan fishing boat attacking, or what?

- Henrik, help! Please com quickly! They are attacking!

I was rudely woken up from my morning nap after only three hours of sleep the previous night. My wife was calling from the cockpit. Running up on deck I looked at the clock on the bulkhead. The time was 8:30 pm on the 23rd of March 2011. Our location was roughly 120 nautical miles SW of Sri Lanka.

We were being attacked by a Sri Lankan fishing boat. In order to keep this article focused I will not describe the incident again, it has been done in a previous report: Against All Odds.

Someone out there reading this may object to my use of the word attack and call it harassment instead. But to me, who was out there in the front line, it was definitely an attack. I can tell the difference, as we have been harassed also.

We were on a return passage from Male in the Maldives to Phuket in Thailand. A couple of months earlier we had aborted our planned voyage to the Mediterranean because of the increased piracy in the Arabian Sea. And at the moment we believed that we were safe from pirates again.

But the times they are a'changing, as Bob Dylan described it long ago. Safety from piracy on the seas appears to be a luxury of days past, á la Hiscock & co.

I have called for drastic action by the international communities several times before, but it appears people just shrug their shoulders.

Back to the wild west?
(Click photo for larger version)

Reading the comments by the public in the newspapers and on the web, I learn that people back home have little or no understanding of the spreading piracy problem. - Why do these rich people have to sail in unsafe waters? The usual advice, even on Noonsite, a web site that provides advice and information for cruisers, is to look the other way; go somewhere else!

Should we really act like the ostrich, and turn the blind eye, hide our heads so we don't see the problem anymore? I think that is dead wrong, because piracy has started to escalate also to other seas - it is not simply a Somali basin, or even an Indian Ocean, problem anymore.

And by the way, speaking of rich people. Most of the cruisers are not wealthy, many are on a budget and it is quite common that cruisers have financed their lifestyle by selling everything they own ashore, sacrificing their careers and facing old age with little or no pensions. Many sail uninsured because they cannot afford a policy. We have been out here now for 20 years, and we have met a lot of cruisers, we should know.

But no, I'm not advocating for an effort to end Somali piracy just to let the cruisers go on living their dreams in the Arabian Sea. I'm afraid of what the safety of the seas all over the third world will look like in just a few years if the pirates in Somalia are given the opportunity to increase their reputation and give their leaders higher profiles.

The pirates of Somalia are becoming role models for many a poor fisherman in undeveloped areas of the world. The successful hi-jackers are quickly turning into some kind of Robin Hood characters, who are giving lessons how to take from the rich and give to the poor. It is not difficult to understand how tempting it must be for dirt-poor people to follow the example, and how easy to justify.

The crew of the fishing boat which confronted us south of Sri Lanka was probably thinking just like that. - Lets give it a try, we have nothing to loose. Occasion makes the thief and one thing leads to the next. And they will be getting bolder for each time, learning new tricks how to get a rope around the prop of a sailing boat, or something else. There are plenty of innocent cruisers to practice with.

When the propulsion gets obsolete, they can come alongside, pretend to be sorry and offer help to free the propeller. Imagine having six young fishermen walking around your deck looking at your belongings and estimating how much the lot is worth.

And if they decide to rob you of all your valuables, can they risk leaving you alive as witnesses. No, better have you dead and the yacht sunken - no witnesses, no risk whatsoever. Nobody will know.

I have always been against the idea of carrying guns aboard but, if the rulers of the world don't stop the trend of rising piracy, it may soon become popular to arm yourself for protection when you go cruising. Raising guns against Somali pirates or other professional gangsters would be equal to suicide of course, but with the fisherman turned pirate it may be an other story. I can guarantee that if I would have had a revolver and had shot a hole in the bow of the fishing boat, or even just a shot of warning in the air, they would have turned away immediately.

In most countries, one cannot get permission to carry a gun just for self defence, but maybe this policy has to change if the idea of "looking the other way" gets usually accepted. Already there are many shipping companies that employ private armies for protection against pirates.

If the Somali piracy is not being stopped, then piracy will spread and increase all over the seas. Cruising will not end just because the risk of being attacked is getting higher. Independence and relentless attention have always been the most crucial merits of a good navigator, and that will not change. How could you blame a cruiser who wants to defend himself against wanna be pirates?

Is this the development we want to support in the western world? Back to the Wild West!

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