Piracy: a growing problem for Yemen

10 Feb
A Somali pirate holding a machine gun after hijacking a Malaysian ship in 2009. The ship was returned after a ransom was paid. Since 2009 Yemen has refused to receive any pirates caught by international naval forces. photo: Coast Guard Authority
Malak Shaher, Yemen Times
Published:10-02-2011
SANA’A, Feb. 9 – Pirates attacking ships in international waters are becoming a growing problem for Yemen as captured men cannot be tried in Yemeni courts when arrested by international forces.Yemen is unable to try pirates who operate outside its regional waters. In addition the process of receiving and trying the captured men is extremely costly, according to Shuja’ Al-Deen Al-Mahdi, head of the operational unit of the Coast Guard Authority (CGA) in Sana’a.Al-Mahdi told the Yemen Times that pirates are avoiding Yemeni regional waters due to the high presence of international naval ships deployed to protect shipping from attacks. Yemen detained 62 pirates during 2008 and 2009. While some were tried, others are still awaiting the Yemeni courts’ decisions, according to the CGA head.“The pirates these days are trying to play hide-and-seek with us,” said Al-Mahdi. “The more we try to catch them and control piracy, the more they go far away and hijack ships from waters not protected.”

An Italian oil tanker was attacked by five Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday evening, according to Al-Mahdi. The ship, Savina Caylyn, was sailing from Sudan to Singapore carrying a load of crude oil and 22 crew. The pirates took control of the ship and are reportedly heading to the Somali coast.

Al-Mahdi explained that if the owners of the hijacked ships fail to pay the ransom, the pirates eventually use the captured vessels as ‘mother ships’ from which to launch further attacks.

According to Aesh Awwas, from the Sheba Center for Strategic Studies in Saba’a, there are no specific laws covering the trial of pirates caught outside of Yemen.

“Piracy in international waters has created a problem for Yemen as the country is not responsible for Somali pirates hijacking ships outside its waters,” said Awwas.

Yemen stopped detaining and trying Somali pirates submitted by international forces in 2009. These pirates were attacking ships in non-Yemeni regional waters, according to the CGA.

The Penal Court in Al-Mukalla, two weeks ago, sentenced twelve Somalis to thirteen years in jail for conducting piracy attacks in Yemeni and international waters.

International Maritime Organization

At a meeting of the International Maritime Organization in the UK last week, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said that the escalating problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia is completely “unacceptable”.

The only long-term solution to the Somali piracy problem is to restore law and order in Somalia, said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

In 2011 the IMO plans to build on efforts to tackle the problem through information-sharing centers, which will be established in Yemen and Kenya and Tanzania.

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