Donald A. Moskowitz
The recent rescue of hostages in Somalia by a Navy Seal Team brings into focus the ongoing problem we have with the Somali pirates. These pirates continue to wreak havoc on commercial shipping off the coast of Africa, and there are numerous ships and hostages currently being held by the pirates for ransom.
In February 2011 four Americans were taken hostage aboard their yacht off Africa, and were subsequently killed by their captors. During the same time frame, the pirates commandeered the Italian tanker Savina Caylyn, which can carry $63 million of crude oil; and captured the U.S. bound tanker Irene SL 220 miles off Oman. The Irene SL was carrying 2 million barrels of oil worth $200 million.
Maritime industry officials believe over 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil supply could be at risk of pirate attacks and this could have an adverse impact on oil prices and the economies of countries dependent on oil imports.
Action has to be taken to combat the pirates. Shipping companies should place heavily armed professional guards on ships with shoot to kill orders. All countries with commercial ships traversing the African shipping lanes should provide naval warships to protect shipping, and if necessary, provide convoy escort duty just like they did during WWII. We might need slow moving strafing aircraft located at sea or on land to be available to quickly search out and destroy the pirates in their boats.
If the preceding steps do not work, the impacted countries should attempt to rescue the hostages and then sink the pirates' mother ships, and consider hitting the pirate havens along the coast of Somalia with precision aerial (possibly drones) and naval attacks.
Although diplomacy is preferable to military action, the Somali government is too weak to rein in the pirates; therefore, military operations are probably needed to solve the problem.