It is likely that Somali pirates will soon raise the level of lethal violence with the result that there will be “small wars” on the open sea, according to security expert Casey Christie.
“Pirates will kill more people, including hostages and security officers” he warned.
Christie, who is the managing director of Concept Tactical Worldwide, based in London, says this lethal escalation is a logical development of the way in which the pirate scourge is currently being handled by the international community.
“For a long time the shipping lines were very reluctant to place armed men aboard their vessels for fear of an arms escalation race between the private security firms and the Somali pirates. However, because of the presence of armed security teams on board an increasing number of ships, no ship with an armed team on board has been successfully hijacked in recent times.”
Therefore the concept of armed protection had grown steadily in acceptance, but closer analysis revealed a new threat, he said.
“Pirates trying to board vessels are being scared off by warning shots fired by armed security officers. This has led to an obvious change of tactics by the pirates – they now launch probe attacks on targeted vessels. They approach and make their intentions clear and if the presence of an armed security team is detected the attack is broken off.
“At first glance this looks positive. However I find this new trend to be worrying indeed. I believe that the Somali Pirates are not a rag-tag bunch but a co-ordinated syndicate and that the current probe attack is a type of intelligence gathering and battlefield calculation. Piracy has been making these criminals dollar millionaires and they will stop at nothing.
“I expect that In the very near future the number of pirates in a hijacking party is going to quadruple and will not involve less than a dozen, nothing-to-lose professional pirates. The attacks will change from opportunistic to must-accomplish-at-all-costs missions. And the level of violence used against the security teams and crew on board will become brutal and the norm”.
Christie said he believed that the solution to piracy must be led by Africans – because only Africans understood the level of violence that fellow Africans were willing to employ while carrying out their crimes.
“The pirates will want to send a message – a message of warning not to take armed security jobs on board vessels . They will send this message in blood through torture and murder.
“The difference between an armed security officer from the United Kingdom and a pirate from lawless Somali cannot be explained in words – only understood through empirical experience.
“Unfortunately I believe that experience is on the horizon. One of these days the pirates will launch the first all or nothing attack and it is going to be bloody and nasty.”
The immediate reaction could be military action which would further escalate the already simmering situation.
Christie claimed that the African piracy problem on water was not too dissimilar to organised crime on land in Africa.
He pointed out that the newly democratic South Africa witnessed a similar sort of escalation in armed force and violence on cash in transit vehicles – “so much so that it eventually became an almost daily occurrence to hear reports of 18-man gangs armed with AK47s and multiple heavy luxury vehicles attacking these cash in transit vehicles.
“They often forced the security teams to leave their fortified vehicles by smoking them out – something I fear will start to happen when ships’ crews seek safety within the Citadels , the secure areas now established aboard ships. The South African gangs often killed the security officers and randomly shot at civilians and passersby.
“At the height of the cash and transit robbery epidemic the thieves became very sophisticated indeed, using military tactics such as high ground sniping positions and sleeper agents. The CIT spate was eventually brought under control in South Africa not by force but through advanced intelligence gathering on the syndicates.”
He said that Intelligence gathering and proactive tactics by the world’s navies would be effective initial steps in combating the Somali pirates.
But the final solution would have to occur in Somalia itself.
Christie concluded: “But if things continue on the current trajectory, there will be large levels of violence on the water around the Somali coast causing a large international outcry and then it will be violence on land. And without a doubt in my mind the final steps to solving the Somali problem will involve the use of force – possibly a private military company contracted by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the Regional Government of Puntland.”