The Pirate Life on Somalia’s Coast

The BBC recently ran a feature about the pirates who have been terrorizing ships off Somalia’s coastline. These pirates make their money by capturing ships of all sorts, from cruise ships to freighters, and demanding a ransom. Are these guys modern day eye-patch-wearing rum-lovers? According to BBC reporter Robyn Hunter, they are ambitious young men who have found a niche and are exploiting it to ensure that they live the good life in a troubled country where half of the population relies on foreign food aid to survive.

A resident of Puntland, the semi-autonomous coastal area from which the pirates operate, gave Hunter the lowdown on the attraction of the pirate life:

“They have money; they have power and they are getting stronger by the day…They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars; new guns…Piracy in many ways is socially acceptable. They have become fashionable.”

But the heyday for these cowboys of the Gulf of Aden may be coming to an end. Shipping companies are planning on hiring security contractors to guard ships passing through the area. That will significantly lessen the chance of pirates being able to take a ship and its crew hostage without a fight. It is doubtful though, that the presence of a few armed contractors will lessen the lure of the easy money of the pirate life.