I just discovered this great on-line store for pirate costumes and accessories: BuyPirateCostumes.com. They have a full line adult and children's costumes (plus other sizes), as well as costumes specifically designed to conjure up the specific images of buccaneers, Captain Morgan, Captain Hook and others. It's fun just to browse.
"Increasing evidence links the mafia-like Somali clans that run the pirating to the Al-Shabaab Islamist insurgent group, which controls most of southern and central Somalia. Both the U.S. and the U.N. accuse Al-Shabaab of having links to al-Qaeda.
"The rag-tag pirates who are grabbing small private yachts and cargo boats loaded with lawn tractors may be providing a working model for terrorists interested in hijacking tankers loaded with chemicals and cargo boats carrying weapons.
"The pirates' increasingly brazen successes can only be encouraging to others hoping to follow suit."The situation seems to be spinning increasingly out of control. Yet, the activity and threat of piracy is remarkably concentrated off the coast of East Africa and the western reaches of the Indian Ocean.
As dozens of vessels are attacked by pirates, and thousands of sailors are held hostage, the United States government and United Nation's have blocked a shipper-backed group from providing private security for ships and cargo. According to the web site Strategypage (accessed on March 25, 2011):
March 16, 2011: The United States and UN has persuaded Puntland [in Somalia] to withdraw backing for a thousand man coast guard force, trained and led by foreign mercenaries hired by shipping companies. The UN feared that the mercenary trained force would violate the arms embargo against Somalia, and that a more effective combat force in Somalia might fall under the control of a warlord seeking to become the new dictator of Somalia (the last one was driven from power two decades ago). Actually, the training contract in Puntland is only "suspended", as local officials want the mercenary trained coast guard force, as it appears to be the only way to control the thousands of gunmen working for pirate gangs and warlords. The UN is unable to get many countries to supply peacekeepers for Somalia either.
Unfortunately, Ashareh fell out with the production company, Palmira PDR, so he's not part of the current release strategy. (It sounds like Ashareh has also learned a few unfortunate things about contracts and the business of film production along the way.)
Hot Docs bills itself as North America's largest documentary film festival and is set to take place from April 28th through May 8th in Toronto. Details of the Pirate Tapes can be found on the web site, including a trailer.
Here's the Hot Docs description:
A tale of violence, piracy and environmental disaster spirals into a life-threatening situation when Mohamed, a young Somali-Canadian, joins an armed pirate cell with a hidden camera. But when a rival clan murders the pirate boss, Mohamed ends up in a horrific jail in danger of execution. Interspersed with riveting never-before-seen footage of pirates organizing a hijacking, the film peels back the layers of civil war, history and corruption that turned once-peaceful fishermen into marauders. Massive illegal fishing by Asian and European ships decimated fish stocks, international corporations made secret deals with warlords so they could dump their nuclear wastes off the Somali coast, and politicians siphoned foreign aid into their personal accounts. But the moral justification of retaliation has morphed into a violent, complex, money-driven operation, one that both pirates and politicians expose as a multi-million-dollar business funded primarily by foreigners who reap most of the profit.
Deterrence, or at least stopping attacks at the earliest stage, is always best. These are areas in which the private sector (both shipowners and their security advisers) must play a role. America has also encouraged small countries with large shipping registries such as Liberia, Panama, the Marshall Islands and the Bahamas to mandate prudent self-protection by vessels.
Already, the line between peaceful merchant ships and naval ones is blurring a little. These days, maritime-security providers operating off east Africa almost always make some use of weapons, says Didier Berra, a French army veteran who has worked for Secopex, a naval-security firm based in Carcassonne in France.
Draconian force is seldom necessary, adds Mr Berra. Attackers often give up when 12.7mm machineguns are fired into the water, creating a big splash. The head of another European security firm says many outfits sidestep bans on weapons in port by tossing them overboard. Yet a show of firepower is increasingly necessary because pirates are getting blasé about “non-lethal” defences like water hoses and sonic blasts, says David Schewitz, whose California-based company, RSB International, helps protect ships.
Navies are also starting to deploy seamen on merchant ships, something hitherto rare unless the cargo was military. The French navy, for example, has been sending sailors to protect the country’s tuna-fishing ships in waters around the Seychelles. Such assertiveness at least marginally reduces the opportunities for private firms; a few games really are zero sum.The article also notes that poltiical stability and economic growth will be essential for reducing the allure of piracy. That may be true, but a lot can be done now to increase the penalties of engaging in piracy. And here is where private actions to defend vessels and people may be the most effective, even if it is only addressing a symptom of the larger problem.