The Black Fish is a non-governmental organization (NGO) “working for the oceans that has integrated the use of unmanned air vehicles in support of its marine wildlife protection operations. Blackfish’s UAS were provided by Laurens De Groot’s organization ShadowView, which supplies UAVs to non-profits for conservation projects. The group flew initial demonstration sorties with a quad-rotor over a harbor and is looking to improve their UAS capabilities to fly longer-range missions over the open water in an effort to expose illegal driftnet fishing in the Mediterranean
The NGO Oceans Beyond Piracy recently updated their report, The Human Cost of Maritime Piracy, including data from 2012. Discussing the impact piracy (or more accurately, “maritime crime”) off Somalia or West Africa has had on merchant seaman, the report has received much exposure from the pressby pointing out that in 2012 more pirate attacks occurred in West Africa than off Somalia.
The shift of piracy’s center of gravity from the east to west coast of Africa may shed light on more than just the current hotspots for maritime insecurity, but also demonstrate how commonly held assumptions regarding the impact state failure has on maritime security may be overstated or false. For much of the last decade, the conventional wisdom has been that “failed states” or “ungoverned spaces” are breeding grounds for illicit activities like terrorism, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and piracy. However, academics like Stewart Patrick and Ken Menkhaus have argued that illicit actors may in fact find that “weak but functioning” states are more attractive environments to operate in than failed states, as weak states, despite their problems, have the necessary linkages into the global economic system that failed states lack, and that illicit actors need to be able to profit from their activities.
More importantly, it is much more difficult for external actors to interfere in the internal affairs of a weak state than a failed state. Without a functioning government (excepting the self-declared states of Somaliland and Puntland), there has been nothing to stop foreign intervention in Somalia against terrorists or pirates (such as Ethiopian and Kenyan invasions, occasional raids against pirate camps by Western militaries, and an African Union-sponsored peacekeeping force). In West Africa, meanwhile, much of the violence has been conducted within the territorial waters of Nigeria or its neighbors, and conducted by Nigeria-based gangs. While the various Gulf of Guinea states are planning talks to hammer out the details of a regional counter-piracy strategy, it is unlikely that sovereignty-conscious states like Nigeria would be willing to accept outside intervention by Western navies in the region. Ultimately, there is nothing stopping a foreign power from using military force against pirates in Somalia if they desire, but a similar course of action in Nigeria would be much more complicated by the fact that there is a functioning government in Nigeria, even with Abuja’s somewhat limited ability to assert its authority in the Niger Delta.
Lieutenant Commander Mark Munson is a Naval Intelligence officer currently serving on the OPNAV staff. He has previously served at Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and onboard USS Essex (LHD 2). The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official viewpoints or policies of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.
PS: Oceans Beyond Piracy report is worth a read because it shifts the focus from the typical economic costs of piracy and whether the piracy in Somalia has hurt the bottom line of the maritime industry to the real victims, the poorly-paid merchant seamen who have truly borne the cost of maritime insecurity as piracy has exploded on both the east and west coasts of Africa.
The rise, fall, and rebirth of the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) is a bizarre and thrilling story that I have been following, to the point of obsession, for the last two years. As CIMSEC readers are surely aware, one is hard pressed to find a report on Somali piracy that does not advocate an onshore solution for this maritime crime.
When it came to actually establishing security and rooting out pirate bases in the autonomous region of Puntland however, it was not NATO, the EU, the U.S, or U.K. that took the lead, but a South African private military company financed by the United Arab Emirates.
The PMPF has earned international praise for denying pirate gangs an onshore sanctuary and for rescuing hostage mariners, but has also been labeled an unaccountable private army by UN monitors. Despite international pressure, financial arrears, and pirate infiltration the PMPF and its South African mentors continue to march on. With piracy now largely eliminated, the marines appear to have engaged a new foe—the Islamist insurgents of al-Shabaab.
Taiwan on Sunday sent a task force of three Coast Guard Administration vessels and one Lafayette-class navy frigate to waters near the northern Philippines, joining a Knox-class frigate already in the area. The move follows the death of a Taiwanese fisherman last Thursday that has strained ties between the neighbors.
The 65-year-old fisherman was aboard the fishing vessel Kuang Ta Hsin No 28 when he was killed in a confrontation with Philippine coastguardsmen aboard the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel MCS 3001, an incident now under investigation by the Philippines government.
On Friday, the Philippines confirmed that it had confronted two fishing vessels and fired at one, but only after it says a vessel tried to ram the 30-meter MCS 3001. Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said that the BFAR ship fired to disable the ship’s engines, and before the coastguardsmen were aware of the injury, they saw “a big white ship“ that apparently scared them off. “Our people felt threatened so they left the area,” he said,according to AFP News.
It is important to note that although the Philippines insists the incident took place in its undisputed waters, so far Taiwan has not acknowledged that assertion, backing the Kuang Ta Hsin‘s claims that they were in an area of overlapping Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
Two additional Taiwanese fishing vessels reportedly rescued the Kuang Ta Hsin after it called for help and “towed the boat back to a port in southern Taiwan.”
Taiwan responded on Friday by demanding compensation from the Philippine Coast Guard, prosecution for those responsible, and an apology within 72 hours. Failure to comply would lead to a freeze on the hiring of Filipino nationals in Taiwan, said the spokeswoman for Taiwan’s presidential office, Lee Chia-fei.
The Philippines, however, are waiting for the result of their official investigation, with no word on its expected duration and in the mean time sticking by claims of justifiable self-defense. “If somebody died, they deserve our sympathy but not an apology,” said Balilo. Nonetheless, the personnel involved have been suspended as a matter of routine pending the investigation’s outcome. Interestingly, another Filipino news site says video exists of the incident and will be used in the investigation but is not available for public viewing.
Meanwhilehackers from both nations have targeted each others’ government websites.