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Published on Jun 4, 2012
Piracy off the coast of Somalia is a major international issue, mostly because of the close proximity of Somalia lawless and un-policed coast to major shipping lanes. Somalia's civil war that has been ongoing since the 1990s and the lack of strong and effective authorities has made sea-piracy thrive. There has been a sharp escalation in piracy attacks with a 219% increase in reported seizures between 2007 and 2008. To protect vital maritime routes in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, the international community,- under the mandate of the UN -- has deployed Naval forces to deter and arrest pirates although this is highly cost and has had only limited success. Increased piracy in the Coast of Somalia has had a negative impact on trade and shipping with some ships opting to take longer routes to avoid the long Somali coastline while relief efforts in Somalia has been hampered by their inability to deliver essential items to Somali ports.
A study conducted on initiative by Norwegian Church Aid, it was found that piracy emerged due to the illegal and unregulated exploitation of fishery resources within Somalia's territorial waters by unscrupulous foreign vessels following the collapse of the Somali central government in 1991. Illegal fishing led to noticeable depletion of fishery resources in areas that had been hitherto accessible to the Somali fishermen. There were incidences of violence visited upon local fishermen by foreign vessels. Majority of the respondents also attributed claims of illegal dumping of toxic waste along Somali coastal waters as another motivating factor that led to emergence of piracy.
Due to the above factors, groups of fishermen decided to confront (using arms) foreign vessels sighted within the territorial waters. With time, these groups began imposing penalties and taxes upon foreign vessels. These were the primordial piracy gangs that eventually evolved into organized and deadly groups that are currently reigning terror within and beyond Somali territorial waters.
Norwegian Church Aid believes that in order to target the problems of piracy one must target the root causes. This rehabilitation and training programme for former pirates was initiated after suggestions received from our partners and religious leaders in Puntland, Somalia. The project is currently funded by the Norwegian Shipowners Association, the association DNK (Den Norske Krigsforsikring for Skib) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.