Somali pirates are the illegal armed militia, attacking merchant ships and fishing vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Gulf of Aden is a vital route between Europe and Asia for ships, passing the Suez Canal.
Piracy in this region has increased dramatically since the Somali civil war in the 1990s. After the Somali central government fell in 1991, the country had no functioning coastguard. This led to foreign ships began to engage in illegal fishing on a large scale in Somali waters. Local fishermen started to arm themselves to defend their own fisheries. It became afterwards a piracy, as this turned out to be a profitable business. Through the total corruption inside the dry land of Somalia, pirates have been able to get freedom after a successful piracy act.
Somalia is, along with Nigeria and Indonesia, one of the countries where the pirate attacks occur most often. Approximately 1,200 Somalis are engaged in piracy and organized into at least six major groups. The average ransom for a ship increased from initial $10 000 to one million dollars in spring 2009.
The UN Security Council has decided to place military forces in the Gulf of Aden to protect traffic against pirates. Europe participates in efforts to protect ships passing the Gulf of Aden. The so-called Combined Task Force 150 are based in Djibouti.
In November 2008, Somali pirates hijacked a supertanker, the Sirius Star, containing oil at a value of SEK 800 million. In 2008, the pirates hijacked a total of over 100 ships in the pirate-proof areas around the Horn of Africa.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008 a Chinese vessel, Zhenua 4, was attacked by Somali pirates.
Using two speedboats the pirates managed to catch up with the big ship and opened fire. The crew made Molotov cocktails using beer bottles to protect themselves against attackers. Finally, the helicopters came to rescue the ship and the invaders chose to give up.
February 28, 2011 a Danish family was captured by pirates. The pirates threatened to kill the family, when Denmark forces tried to rescue them. The seven persons were released after 197 days for the ransom of 16 million Danish kroner.
A study by American One Earth Future Foundation shows that Somali pirates annually cause damage to the global economy for $8 billion.
According to the study, shipping companies lose about $6.5 billion a year, and for the governments of various countries Somali piracy costs about $1.3 billion.
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