Somali pirates hold 400 hostage

Simon Cox Jul 8, 2010


Steve Chiotakis: Right now Somali pirates are holding an estimated 400 people hostage, captured over the course of weeks and months. Dozens of global Navies have tried to stop them. A small number have been caught and are being tried in Africa. The BBC’s Simon Cox has been looking at how the problem is being tackled and how sophisticated the pirates have become. Hi, Simon.

Simon Cox: Hi, there.

Chiotakis: What kind of boats are being targeted by these pirates?

Cox: You’re really looking at big freighters, oil tankers. Things that move pretty slowly really. Often they are the ones pirates will target and also they can get much bigger ransoms for them. Interestingly, we were talking to the United Nations and they were saying that the rates for pirates have gone up from $5,000 they used to get per ship to $15,000 in just over a year. So the rewards for Somalis on the dollar a day are pretty big.

Chiotakis: And how high tech are these pirate gangs?

Cox: They are getting more high tech. We were talking to one of the commanders of the European Union. They have gotten a naval force down there. A guy called Maj. Gen. Buster Howes, and he says that because Somali piracy has been established now for quite a few years that the industry developed around it.

Maj. Gen. Buster Howes: You can buy shares in piracy in the markets in Somalia. The pirates who are successful are Somalia’s equivalent to our successful footballers. They have considerable status because they are earning money and bringing money back into the community.

Chiotakis: So Simon, what can be done to stop these folks?

Cox: Well there are discussions about maybe trying to go for their assets. I know that the American government has issued an order which actually bans ransom payments to pirates. But its very difficult because the Somali banking system you know that don’t send this money over wire transfers. A lot of it is obviously cash that they are getting from the ransom so it’s very hard to trace it.

Chiotakis: The BBC’s Simon Cox in London. Simon, thank you.

Cox: Thank you.

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