Somalia is a country located in the Horn of Africa. The country is considered to be a home of world's best known contemporary pirates. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 a lack of central government control exists over most of the country. The internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government controls only a small part of the territory.
The pirates operate lucrative ship-hijacking operations to capture merchant ships off the coasts of Yemen, Somalia, and Kenya and hold them for ransom. Since it is far cheaper to pay the ransom rather than to lose the ship, crew and cargo, ship owners and their insurance companies usually pay the ransom, sometimes in the millions of dollars.
Piracy off the shore of Somalia has become a significant problem during the early nineties. When the civil war destroyed the government, foreign fishing boats did not bother to protect the environment and reefs that supported local fish population.
The lucrative tuna catch off the Somali coast caused major economic damage to the Somali fishing industry. They uprooted reefs, catching the future livelihoods of the nearby coastal people along with the fish. Some pirates even claim that the original goal of piracy was to protect the local fishing industry from European and Asian fishermen.
Pirate base and resource exploatation
The majority of the pirates are based in Puntland, one of the poorest areas of the country. They operate primarily in the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean, between Yemen and Somalia. Naval vessels from around the world (United Stated, United Kingdom, Russia, India, others), patrol the Somali coast to protect merchant vessels. Due to Somalia's proximity to the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal, nearly 16,000 ships travel off the coast every year.
The former fishermen realized the enormous economic return in piracy and soon it became a thriving industry. Somali fishermen with access to small-arms and portable rockets due to the civil war, started to make a living from attacking foreign fishing and cargo ships off their coast.
The highly corrupt land lords and militia leaders of the coastal regions struck a deal with the invading fishing boats to give them licenses to continue exploiting Somalia's marine resources. In return, the same militia leaders were rewarded generously for condemning the local population to unfair competition and poverty. The dismay of domestic fishermen and extreme exploitation led to an uprising from the younger populations.
The revolting locals took matters into their own hands and declared war on the invading foreign ships. Payments of million dollar ransoms, a vast supply of unemployed young men combined with a romanticized pirate culture and governmental chaos are the continuing problems which Somalia faces.