The Somali Piracy Model: Coming to a Sea Near You
Over the past decade, the western Indian Ocean unexpectedly emerged as a hotbed for maritime crime as pirates -- safe-havened in Somalia -- menaced seafarers as far east as the Maldives. Shipping companies have been hit hard, with one estimate placing the direct costs of Somali piracy at $5.5 billion in 2011. Despite a multinational naval flotilla deployed to counter the pirates, attacks continued to grow last year.
The discussion of Somali piracy predominately characterizes it as an aberration -- a situation made possible by a failed Somali state that abuts a major shipping route. Viewed through such a prism, there is little chance that Somali-style piracy will emerge in any other region.
However, it is not only opportunity and the government’s inability to enforce the rule of law that facilitates the pirates’ success: Their conceptually innovative approach has also contributed to their booming business.
Traditionally, pirates focused on seizing vessels to profit from either the money and cargo onboard or the ships themselves. But Somali pirates clued in on something else entirely: the value shipping companies place on keeping their ships both operational and moving at the speed of world trade.
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