Combatting Pirates Off the Somali Coast
Somaliland Coast Guard

On patrol with the Somaliland Coast Guard.

“$100 for the fuel,” was the reply when I asked how much it would cost to have the Somaliland Coast Guard take me out on their patrol boat.

I needed video footage of the Gulf of Aden to use in the video above. For the past two days we sat inside the hot barracks of the coast guard station in Berbera. Even though they are responsible for protecting one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and a stretch of Africa’s longest coastline, the coast guard struggles to find the resources to patrol its own waters.

Yemeni dhow

A Yemeni dhow on the Gulf of Aden.

I handed the harbor master a hundred dollar bill for fuel and soon we were on an ocean populated with exotic painted dhows, fishermen bring home their catch, and massive container ships.

The pleasure cruise quickly ended when the coast guard sighted a Yemeni vessel illegally dumping livestock manure into Somali waters. The coast guard boarded the ship and fined the captain.

Livestock Vessel

Illegally dumping livestock manure.

Afterwards, the incident impressed upon me that maritime crime will thrive when law enforcement cannot operate in its own jurisdiction.

In 2016, the Western Indian Ocean continued to see limited piracy activity, largely due to at sea mitigation efforts over the recent years. However, several attacks in early 2017 highlight the many gaps that still remain.

Somali fishermen near Berbera

Somalis return from fishing near Berbera.

While incidents of piracy have been reduced, so has the international community’s commitment to a sustained effort to ensure that piracy does not re-emerge. Additionally, very little funding has shifted toward building the capacity of regional maritime forces.

Despite their limitations, regional maritime security entities have had some success in responding to piracy incidents. They are the thin line of defense that keep piracy at bay.

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