x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The high price of international piracy

Adequate attention to the human cost of maritime piracy will give the governments added incentives to fight against the menace.

Pirate attacks on commercial vessels in waters off Somalia, in the Indian Ocean and off the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula, are becoming less frequent but no less mercenary. But the problem is far from solved.

Tempting as it is to call for more naval involvement, it's clear that a purely military approach won't stamp out maritime piracy for good. To avoid international warships patrolling the waters near Somalia, pirates are simply moving further afield. The seas between Somalia and India are too vast to be effectively monitored.

But as Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed made clear this week at a conference on the subject, there are answers to the piracy epidemic. What's crucial is unity and cooperation. The UAE has long maintained that regionally-led solutions are the best ones to effectively fight piracy, and nations must work together to combat the attackers.

As the antipiracy conference kicked off in Dubai yesterday, Sheikh Abdullah reiterated the stance that combating piracy must be backed by development programmes to strengthen local communities

To be sure, the cost of piracy is huge: according to a report by the advocacy group One Earth Future Foundation, Somali piracy cost governments and the shipping industry about US$7billion (Dh25.7bn) a year.

Unfortunately, the other side of piracy often skips our attention. As The National reports today, the human cost around the shores of Somalia can be understood from the desperation in the voices of relatives of hostages who have been held by Somali pirates for nearly three years.

It is hard to imagine the trauma of the crew of the cargo ship MV Albedo. The 24-man crew was taken hostage by Somali pirates in November 2010 in the Gulf of Aden. There are 64 sailors currently being held in Somalia, of whom 53 have been held for more than two years, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Relatives of the victims hope to reach out to delegates at the Dubai conference to remind the world about the men. They are not wealthy people, and they cannot pay the pirates for the release of their kin. Putting a face on the human cost of piracy will, however, only help our comprehension of its devastating effects and aid the international push towards controlling its spread.