It's been a banner week for the suddenly resurgent Somali piracy biz. Depressed in the early months of '09 by bad weather, low volume and low turnover, the pirate market soared last week on strong returns from no fewer than 5 successful hijackings in the western Indian Ocean.
Somali buccaneers in the past week nabbed a German freighter, a Taiwanese fishing vessel, a British ship, a French yacht and a Yemeni tugboat, and tried for many more. There are now believed to be at least 18 ships and 270 hostages under Somali pirate control, marking an abrupt turnaround in pirate activity from the dismal winter months.
[Update April 14: Another 4 ships and 60 hostages seized today]
The pirates apparently were so buoyed by the surge in their fortunes that they took on a U.S. freighter for the first time (and lost; they took the American captain hostage but that ended yesterday in the deaths of 3 pirates). Then on Saturday they struck at a 26,000-tonne super freighter, though this one escaped after its crew turned high-powered water hoses on the attacking pirates.
A Canadian warship in the Gulf of Aden, the HMCS Winnipeg, even foiled 3 pirate attacks this past week. Despite the setbacks, the pirates are not dissuaded.
While Wall-Street white collars continue to hope and pray for the government to bail them out, Somali pirates know there's no stimulus like self-stimulus. Not waiting around for their chunk of the Obama administration's 357-gajillion-dollar bailout package, the pirates are making their own recovery, and the trickle-down is already being felt.
"We can smell the cash near," one local fisherman from the port town of Eyl told Reuters, in reference to the pirates' swagger and penchant for throwing money around after returning from a successful heist.
Yes, it seems for some folks--and we're talking about the ones who aren't hostages--happy times are here again.
In related news, class warfare is breaking out amongst the pirate hostages. Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme (the top pirate tracker) is dismayed that so many journalists and other do-gooders have flocked to East Africa to inquire about the safety of the lone American captain held hostage, while no fewer than 90 Filipino seamen, for example, have been languishing for weeks or months without so much as a page-17 news bite.
"It's hypocrasy," he said. While Western front pages are reserved for frightened rich white tourist folk like these, the Filipinos only make the local paper.
Do you think that, if it were only Filipinos and Bangladeshis under duress, NYT adjunct Mr. Fix-It Robert Kaplan would write this much hyperbole about how America needs a "third navy" to survive in a post-apocalyptic future world run by a Chinese-Al Qaeda-Somali Pirate triumvirate?
Some analysts are not ruling out an inevitable Marxian hostage revolt on the Somali coast which, while creating a Utopian hostage society in which each hostage is measured according to his or her abilities rather than skin colour, will also in an ironic twist establish a socialist government in previously ungovernable Somalia which will regulate the pirate industry and fill in the chasm between rich and poor with the teardrops and toil of the proletariat whose ceaseless labour will ultimately render the entire pirate trade worthless and save the whole world from the apocalypse that Kaplan predicts.
Well, you know anything is possible.
[Interested in pirates? The Tuque Souq Somali Piracy Watch has you covered, though we cannot afford to pay your ransom.]