Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Maritime Piracy, then and now.

A couple of centuries back, the shores of the Southern Arabian gulf were known as the piracy coast. Merchant ships passing through the narrow Straits of Hormuz, plying between Mesopotamia and India, were prey to those pirates who would dart out of hidden coves and raid merchant shipping.

Till one day in early January 1820, when a strong sea and land expedition by the exasperated British succeeded in defeating the pirate stronghold at Ras Al-Khaimah. And led to the signing of a truce between the British and the Arab chiefs, which virtually eradicated piracy in the Gulf. The piracy coast came to be known as the Trucial coast after this truce.

With the passage of time, the Trucial Coast transformed into the Trucial States and in 1971, the seven tiny sheikhdoms which comprised it, federated into the United Arab Emirates. Today this part of the world is enjoying an economic boom and prosperity fueled by oil, trade and construction.

Vela International Marine Limited is a fully owned subsidiary of Saudi Aramco, which is based in Dubai in the U.A.E. It is engaged in the business of transporting crude oil and refined products manufactured by Saudi Aramco, to the rest of the world. It owns several Very Large Crude Carriers or super tankers as they are called. The Sirius Star is a VLCC with a capacity of carrying 2 million barrels of oil and it was yesterday hijacked off the Somali coast by pirates and has been taken to the Somali port of Eyl which is the pirates stronghold. Negotiations are reportedly underway for the safe release of the 25 crew members as well as the ship.

The Somali pirates are doing this just for the money. They have latched on to a cash cow and will not give it up easily. The failed Somali state makes the task of prevention next to impossible. India has already started playing a role in protecting our shipping, but it needs to be enhanced and co-ordinated with other friendly naval powers. Because after all, what is the purpose of a navy if it can't afford protection to merchant shipping? That is one of the primary functions of an armed force, protecting civilians. And piracy is just another form of terrorism.


Vinod_Sharma said...

Really hard to imagine that this actually happening in the 21st century. So far, the interests of the US have not been hit. Once and if that happens, they will certainly respond strongly.

As to the Indian Navy, first it is really not a strong enough force designed to take on such a role on a permanent basis. Second, India's politicians are more keen on behaving and sounding like impotent doves than on creating and then deploying India's power to protect its interests away from its territories.

And then we have the very intelligent commies who keep calling for a cut in defence spending! Above all, who has the time to think of anything substantial beyond petty politicking?!

Does it matter said...

Oh yes, just because it does not happen on our land or waters, does not mean it is not an attack on our freedom.

It is now the time for all countries to come together and say, as Dubya said, either you're with us or against us!

How do we know said...

This is a good point well made. You structure your thoughts very well.