This map of Somalia from early 2011 shows the internal political divisions and the type of pirate activity associated with each part of the 4,000km (2,480 mile) coastline. This map is very large and you can see fine detail if you click through to the full sized version. The newly formed Galmudug autonomous region appears to be the destination of choice for hostage keeping. I started digging and Wikipedia has what appears to be a detailed report Somali piracy. I am curious as to the origin, but it’s solid enough that I’m going to read it closely.
While the shoreline is listed as the least troubled, the Gulf of Aden shows the highest incidence of attacks. I think this combination is attributable to easy access to a volume of passing ships, which encourages attack, and the pressure of increasing enforcement, which seeks to deny that access by limiting bases of operation.
The United States keeps a presence in Djibouti, Camp Lemonnier. I zoomed in on the base and found these. The little triangles appear to be twin engined – probably F-15 Eagles. The large four engined aircraft are likely P3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.
The mainstream media reports on pirates of Somalia, but the problem has spread to the Arabian Sea and the western half of the Indian Ocean. I think this is thanks to increasingly tough enforcement in the Gulf of Aden and hard times continuing to push Somali fishermen into this new line of business. If you look closely you can see the contour lines from 2005 to 2011, an ever expanding radius of operation.
Combined Task Force 151 is the naval companion to the aircraft and troops at Camp Lemonnier. Per their web site, Combined Maritime Forces recently changed flagships to the TCG-492 Gemlik, a Turkish G class frigate. These are all derived from modernized U.S. frigates, and the photo here is the U.S.S. Flatley FFG-21 prior to her sale to Turkey.
The direct costs are known but the indirect costs are all over the board. Their busiest year pirates took in $238 million in ransoms, and the shipping business spent as much as $6.9 billion to count this. Somalia has hit bottom so their contribution to the problem will remain steady. But Yemen seems determined to follow them into disorder, and then neither side of the Gulf of Aden will be safe.
Earlier I wrote Middle East Straits and I didn’t include the Mandab Strait as a trouble point, but given the condition of Somalia, the declining fortunes of Yemen, the potential for already troubled Sudan to go completely out of control I think it should be on the list of troubled passages.