Is Piracy About to Become Standard Operating Practice in Somali Government?

As per this article over on MSNBC which headlined that a US pilot [was] jailed for 15 years over pirate ransoms, six foreigners have been jailed on charges of illegally bringing money into the country (to pay ransoms for the release of vessels held by pirates), carrying cash intended to pay ransoms, and landing in Mogadishu without the correct papers. Their sentence is a 15 year imprisonment and a $15,000 fine each, as reported by the Mogadishu’s court judge Hashi Elmi.

However, according to the article, Elmi said the six might be able to buy their freedom. “The men can appeal and if they ask to pay more instead of (remaining in) prison then we shall see and take our decision”, Elmi said.

Hmmm. Allow pirates to flourish in the north, knowing that they are demanding multi-million dollar ransoms. Wait for foreigners to send in millions of dollars of cash in an effort to free their ships and their people without the right papers. When they do, seize the plane, the cash inside, and the pilots and then charge them for not having the right papers, for illegally bringing money into the country, and for attempting to pay bribes. Then convict the pilots to ridiculous sentences and give them petty fines in comparison. Then say they might be able to reduce their sentence or even buy their freedom in exchange for a bigger fine. Almost sounds to me like the government has figured out they can cash in on the rampant piracy in their country too by passing laws to make bribes illegal, insuring planes suspected of carrying cash never have the right papers, ordering customs officials to deem large cash imports illegal, and ordering the courts to hand down ridiculously harsh sentences in hopes that the foreigners will buy their freedom. Then, they not only get millions of dollars in seized ransom money, but hundreds of thousands, or millions more, in fines.

So what does this mean for your supply chain? Even if it costs more logistics wise, avoid the Somali coast at all costs. Take a longer route. It’ll be cheaper than air dropping a ransom when your vessel gets commandeered, and much cheaper than buying the freedom of your people if they get caught trying to deliver the ransom. Given that piracy attacks are on track to more than double this year, it won’t be long before your ship is next. Unless you’re prepared to hire your own private militia to defend the ship in international waters, don’t take the risk.