Somali pirates benefit from a global network of informers

Published 12 May 2009

These are not your father’s pirates: Somali pirates benefit from information sent to them by informers planted in key shipping hubs around the world; this information includes vessels’ cargo, layout, and route — and is transmitted early enough to allow the pirates enough time to practice their assault based on the information they received

When most people think about Somali pirates, they think of small boats carrying a few tribal fighters with machine guns. These people will have to think again. The Guardian’s Giles Tremlett reports that the breadth of Somalia’s piracy criminal network is disturbingly big, as at least one group of pirates has sent informers to London to provide intelligence and reconnaissance on intended targets (on the pirates’ growing global network of informers, see “Somali Pirates Benefit from a Global Network of Informers,” 12 December 2008 HS Daily Wire).

Take the Turkish vessel, the Karagöl, which was hijacked as it traveled the Gulf of Aden. Based on reports from its network of informers based out of London, the world capital of shipbroking, the pirates not only knew the vessel’s cargo, layout, and route — but had enough time to practice their assault based on the information they received. “The attack on the Turkish ship,” says the Guardian, “was a sign that the pirates have turned a regional phenomenon into a global criminal business that now reaches into the heart of London’s shipping community.”

This new twist in the evolving phenomenon of Somali piracy came from a European military intelligence report leaked to a Spanish radio station yesterday.

The report has been circulated around those countries, including Britain, that are involved in the European Union’s Operation Atalanta to protect ships against piracy in the area. It indicated that the hijacking of at least three vessels, including the Karagöl, the Greek cargo ship Titan, and Spanish tuna trawler Felipe Ruano, followed tipoffs from the London-centered network of informers, according to Cadena SER.

In each case, according to the report, the pirates had full knowledge of the cargo, nationality and course of the vessel.

The Guardian also reports that the national flag of the vessel is taken into account during the target selection process. Graeme Gibbon-Brooks, of Dryad Maritime Intelligence, told the paper that it is more probable that pirates receive a list of targets from informers rather than a single target due to the ocean’s vastness. He also noted that the pirates’ sophistication has increased as funding from outside criminal groups have subsidized their actions.