Piracy: A Winning Business Model

Playing cat and mouse as pirate operations become a lot more sophisticated than this, photo: UK Ministry of Defense Crown Copyright/flickr

Pirates in the Indian Ocean have struck once again: Within two days, groups of pirates hijacked two more tankers, bringing the total of ships being held hostage in the region to a whopping 30 (with 700 crew members on board).

And the latest hijackings are likely to net the pirates more money than ever, with one of the Greek-owned tankers carrying more than $200 million (yes, MILLION) worth of oil. In addition to the human cost of these tragedies, the cost to the global oil market is potentially significant as it tightens already uncomfortable choking points in the transfer of oil from the Middle East to the rest of the world. Although pirate attacks are getting less frequent, their audacity, sophistication and sheer reach is growing as funds available to pirate groups in Somalia in particular have mushroomed.

Indeed Navfor spokesman Wing Commander Paddy O’Kennedy notes that:

What we are dealing with here is a business model that is so good, that for a matter of tens of thousands of dollars you can put together a pirate action group, you can send it to sea and if you are lucky and hit the jackpot, you can come back with a vessel that within six months will bring you a return of nine-and-a-half million dollars. We are the first to admit we are not deterring piracy.

So, as more money flows to pirates and international naval task forces continue to struggle to secure shipping lanes that keep the world economy moving, the question arises: Is piracy in the Indian Ocean and in the Gulf of Aden a scourge that is here to stay? And if naval task forces can do little else except damage control, should the international community not be looking to address the root causes of the lawlessness and misery that drives piracy in the region?

Isn’t it time that the international community take another hard look at what is happening in Somalia and to the Somali people?

For a wealth of background information and analysis on this issue, see our Digital Library holdings under the keyword ‘Piracy on the High Seas‘.


ISN Insights: Look Back, Week Ahead

The new ISN Insights week starts today, photo: Nicole North Rodriguez/flickr

Last week, we examined the following issues:

This week we’ll be looking at: the nexus between FIFA decisions and world politics, EU’s approach to illegal immigration, the ongoing Munich Security Conference, and oil politics in the wake of Egypt’s political crisis. Stay tuned.

Government History

As the Crisis in Egypt Unfolds….

More than a week later, Tahrir Square is still full of demonstrators, photo: Mashahed/flickr

With rumors abound that Mubarak will have to accept a US brokered deal to step down today (amid fresh waves of protests in Cairo), the situation in Egypt is developing so fast that accurate and constantly updated information is key to understanding the present and possible future of this Arab stalwart. What will this day bring to the streets of Cairo? More horrific violence or a sense of renewed resolve and purpose? Will Friday, 4 February 2011, mark the end of Mubarak’s three decade rule?

In addition to pointing you to resources we hold in the ISN Digital Library on Egypt in last week’s post (lots of interesting stuff analyzing the background to the current crisis), we’d like to give you a taster of what we’re monitoring here at the ISN for the newest information on the crisis as it unfolds, day by day, hour by hour.

The best way to stay up to date is to follow Twitter streams: Search for #Egypt or #Cairo to get a live stream of tweets relating to the protests or follow Al Jazeera’s twitter stream which is currently focused on this issue.

You can also follow News Blogs: we found the Guardian News Blog, the Reuters Live Blog and the Al Jazeera Live Blog to be the some of the best in providing up-to-date information and analysis on the situation on the ground.

In addition, Andrew Sullivan- a prominent blogger at the Atlantic magazine does a stellar job at scouring through the Net to find interesting information and quotes on the issue, in addition to providing biting and up-to-date original analysis.

And of course, let’s not forget @Sandmonkey, a prominent Egyptian blogger and activist who is tweeting from Tahrir square as we speak!

Let us know if you’ve found other sources to be equally, or even more helpful.


ISN Insights: Look Back, Week Ahead

The news ISN Insights week starts today, photo: The NewB/flickr

Last week, ISN Insights looked at:

This week we’ll be looking at: US Department of Defense budget woes, Cuban economic reforms and their social impact, Ireland’s political crisis and much more. Stay tuned.


A Day of Demonstrations in the Middle East

People power in the Middle East- where next? photo: Nasser Nouri/flickr

In the wake of the major upheavals in Tunisia, commentators are pointing to the next flash points in the Middle East, identifying countries where repression, social inequality and food crises have contributed to a simmering, and now increasingly explosive situation.

Demonstrations, strikes and street battles have already started in Cairo and other cities in Egypt (follow them on the Guardian blog), and Lebanon is in the throes of its own political crisis, with the younger Hariri stepping down in favor of what will most likely be a Shiite (and some say Hezbollah) dominated government. Sunnis all over the country have reacted in fury and mass protests are ongoing.

How did it come to this, and can people power triumph elsewhere in the region in the way it did in Tunisia?

To delve deeper into this issue and the spectrum of challenges and deep-seated problems that their populations face, check out our resources on Egypt and Lebanon.