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Tackling Sea Piracy Through a Land Approach

Tackling Sea Piracy Through a Land Approach
  • PublishedMay 30, 2023

Sea piracy has long been a global concern, posing a significant threat to maritime trade, security, and human lives. Over the years, naval powers and the international community have primarily focused on maritime strategies to combat piracy. However, it is essential to reverse this perspective and explore how addressing the land-based roots of piracy can contribute to a more comprehensive and effective solution. This article delves into the efforts made by maritime powers and the international community, analyzes the underlying land-based factors contributing to piracy in Somalia and Indonesia, and discusses long-term solutions that integrate both maritime and land approaches to eradicate piracy.

Addressing Sea Piracy – Maritime Powers and International Initiatives

Naval powers and international organizations have implemented various initiatives to combat sea piracy. Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) is one of the four Combined Maritime Force. Created in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions, it aims to suppress piracy outside the territorial waters of coastal States. They work in cooperation with the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR). The collaboration target other maritime issues such as smuggling of goods and illicit products, human trafficking and IUU fishing. They are other operations: the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) and the Malacca Strait Sea Patrol are both some prominent examples.

These initiatives have aimed to enhance maritime security, conduct patrols, and coordinate responses to piracy incidents. However, their focus has predominantly been on the maritime domain, which leaves room for exploring complementary land-based approaches.

The Land Roots of Somali and Indonesian Piracy

Understanding the land-based factors contributing to piracy is crucial for developing effective solutions.

Prior to 1991, piracy was not a major threat in the Horn of Africa. In Somalia, the drought push nomad communities to the littoral. They then relied on fisheries to survive. However, the Civil War pushed the government interest away from the sea. Fishermen were left on their own against foreign countries greed. Indeed, new players came to fish in the waters, depriving the locals of resources. Thus, declining fish stocks in the High Risk Areas (HRA) exacerbate socio-economic issues. Communities were forced to turn to piracy as a means of survival. The lack of infrastructure, isolated fishing villages and uninhabited islands are ideal for pirate hideouts.

Stabilizing the state, reconnecting pirate hideouts to administrative and political hubs, and addressing socio-economic challenges are crucial steps in combating piracy in Somalia.

Similarly, Indonesia faces its own set of challenges. Remote islands, weak governance, and limited law enforcement presence provide a conducive environment for piracy. The archipelagic nature of Indonesia poses difficulties in patrolling and securing vast maritime areas effectively. To combat piracy in Indonesia, efforts should focus on controlling criminal flows, improving infrastructure, connectivity, and strengthening governance in isolated regions.

Failed-states or, at least, fragile ones make propitious environment for maritime piracy to thrive. It creates an area without governmental monitoring and harsh living conditions. Hardskills are transferable to illegal activities. Small-scale fishermen have seafaring abilities and are familiar with the waters. Futhermore, the pay-check, between 2 and 5 times their former wages, is attractive.

Abandoned by the state authorities, joining pirates gang could be a solution to fight foreign industrial and illegal fishing in their waters while earning a living.

Long-Term Solutions : Integrating Land and Maritime Approaches

To eradicate piracy within the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) and particularly around chokepoints, a comprehensive approach that addresses both maritime and land factors is essential.

Long-term solutions should involve the enhancing of maritime security. States should continue to realize naval patrols. There is a need of a collaboration between international naval forces, coast guards, and local law enforcement agencies. They could deter and provide a rapid response to piracy incidents.

International cooperation have to go through sharing intelligence, information and best practices. Countries and regional organizations could then improve their practices and adopt a collective response against piracy. The establishment of an intelligence exchange group can facilitate timely information sharing and enhance coordination between stakeholders. Initiatives as the Djibouti Code of Conduct and the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), can foster collaboration among states and contribute to effective anti-piracy efforts.

But, as our article demonstrates, land-based measures have to be strengthened. Governments must invest in infrastructure development, connectivity, and social welfare programs to address the socio-economic issues that fuel piracy. This includes improving education, healthcare, job opportunities, and sustainable livelihoods in affected coastal areas.

By helping to create a solid legal framework, improving law enforcement capabilities and strengthening governance structures, the long-term stability of affected countries will improve.

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