The Somalian tanker pirates are back in the news – apparently they’ve set up a sort of ‘stock exchange’ to handle the influx of business and investment opportunities and feed their ransom money back into the local area [via BoingBoing; image by bazylek100]
The gangs have made tens of millions of dollars from ransoms and a deployment by foreign navies in the area has only appeared to drive the attackers to hunt further from shore.
It is a lucrative business that has drawn financiers from the Somali diaspora and other nations — and now the gangs in Haradheere have set up an exchange to manage their investments.
One wealthy former pirate named Mohammed took Reuters around the small facility and said it had proved to be an important way for the pirates to win support from the local community for their operations, despite the dangers involved.
“Four months ago, during the monsoon rains, we decided to set up this stock exchange. We started with 15 ‘maritime companies’ and now we are hosting 72. Ten of them have so far been successful at hijacking,” Mohammed said.
First point I’d make is that this reads much like a press release – as if the Reuters guy went down, got a few quotes from the people involved (who were only too keen to put a gloss of success on the operation for the international media) and filed the copy. This is a story about bad guys, so if the bad guys want to appear like they’re really bad, why not quote ’em verbatim? I doubt things are running quite as smoothly as they’d like us to believe.
That said, the core of the story is eminently believable… and if the stuff I read in my old job as an employee of the Royal Naval Museum is to be believed, there’s considerable historical precedent. The buccaneers of the Caribbean had thriving dependent communities and investment programs, and operated with a similar degree of impunity at the peak of their powers, as did the Barbary corsairs. As the nation-state model of political power decays, I suspect we’re going to see more interstitial criminal communities arising to skim the cream from international trade – those tens of millions of dollars that the pirates are raking in aren’t comparable to the higher cost of sending navies out to stop them. Which in turn leaves the door open for the rise of mercenary navies to take on the work of protection…