Uniforms for Puntland fishermen?


Local fishermen in Puntland, the semi-autonomous region of Somalia which has become a haven for pirates, will now have to wear uniforms to differentiate them from the pirates, who presumably will not have access to the same clothing.

Fishermen in Caluula, Mareero, Qandalla and Bargaal told Somalia Report that people are afraid to go fishing because of the threat from pirates who steal their boats, motors, and fuel and because of concerns that international navies may mistake them for pirates, the Ports & Ships newsletter reports.

To remedy this, Puntland officers have initiated a program to identify legitimate fishermen by issuing uniforms and ID cards, it adds. “First we will register all local fishermen in Puntland. We have already begun in Bosaso and all coastal lands in Bari region,” Dr Mohamed Farah Aadan, Puntland’s minister responsible for fishing told Somalia Report. “We will inform our coast guards and international warships that there will be a clear difference between the pirates and fishermen,” he added.

The Ports & Ships newsletter also reports the Mozambique Channel and the entrance to the Persian Gulf are expected to become some of the new hotspots for piracy. Richard Mcenery, operations director with Ocean Protection Services Ltd, one of the numerous companies now offering security services onboard vessels adds more countries will allow armed guards on their vessels to provide protection from piracy. This follows the examples set by the UK, Norway and Germany. But he warns that as the pirates start to realise the embarkation and disembarkation point of armed guards, so they will turn that to their advantage, hence the entrance to the Persian Gulf could become another hotspot in the coming pirate season.
“The pirates have been able to evolve because of money from their original attacks years ago,” he said in an interview with Hellenic Shipping News. “Some pirate groups will have invested in better firearms and boats, while other pirates will still have the same firearms and boats as two years ago. But the tactics and the way the pirates think has definitely evolved. Pirates understand the navy and the reaction of the ship’s crew when pirates are spotted. This is why a vessel should have armed or unarmed guards.” He said he did not think that pirates were being notified of a target-ship’s exact location through insider information. “I do not believe this, but I am not saying it may not happen, I still believe that the pirates take what they come across. But pirates may start using tactics like this as it has become harder for them to capture vessel, due to the amount of ships with security guards.”

Meanwhile, the number of naval ships available for anti-piracy work in the Somali region may be cut back as military budgets are pruned. With the addition of continuing tension in the Middle East, some of the ships now available for anti-pirate patrols may be withdrawn to bolster existing naval forces elsewhere in the region’s troubled spots.

The British publication Lloyd’s List reported Peter Cook, the founder of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry trade association as saying that he was told at a conference in July that the number of naval ships in the Somali region was to be reduced. “Every western country has had a defence review and not one has come out with more money for the navy – everyone is having their budget reduced,” he was quoted. An EU NAVFOR spokesman said that Operation Atalanta currently had six warships on station off Somalia which was, he said, optimum. On average we are one ship down on last year, he admitted to Lloyd List’s sister publication, IFW.

The trade paper quoted NATO as saying there were 18 ships from combined maritime forces conducting anti-piracy patrols this October, the same number as for October last year. In addition however, there were a number of ships from other nations acting independently. The South African Navy frigate in the Mozambique Channel would probably be included as one of these.

A spokesman for BIMCO told IFW that naval forces required 25 ships to be fully effective, and 83 helicopter-capable warships in the high risk area to be able to guarantee helicopter assistance to vessels within an hour of a pirate attack. BIMCO, the Baltic and International Maritime Council, is the world’s largest private shipping organisation representing the majority of shipowners and operators, brokers and P&I Clubs.