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Somali Pirates Twist the Knife

November 12, 2008

Hey, remember those Somali pirates who hijacked a ship full of guns and tanks?


Today marks their fiftieth day in control of the MV Faina, just off the central Somali coast near the port of Hobyo. It’s been interesting to watch the situation develop, and, of course, to watch it drop from view in light of the recent electoral brouhaha.
The Somali pirates, who number about seventeen, hijacked the freighter from two small motorboats on the 25th of September. Of the 21 crew on board at the time of the hijacking, all remain alive except the captain, who died of hypertension after two or three days. His body remains on ice in the ship’s freezer, under a close pirate guard.. The Faina has been surrounded for some time now by a phalanx of US naval vessels, who’ve been closely observing the goings-on aboard.
One reason for such concentrated US and international interest in the situation is that the Faina is carrying a huge cargo of Ukrainian military hardware, including 30 full-size battle tanks. The hardware’s ostensible destination, the Kenyan army, is cast into doubt by an entry on the ship’s manifest that mentions GOSS- the Government of Southern Sudan. Early speculation had the cargo destined for Khartoum’s proxy war in Darfur.
A fundamentalist group, Al Shabaab, appeared on the coast in the middle of the chaos to request a share of the booty, but were apparently rebuffed. The crew have recently reported that they’re out of food and fresh water, after having been cursorily resupplied at laconic intervals during the last fifty days. There’s been a slew of other hijackings, and Russian warships are now escorting traffic in the Gulf of Aden.
What interests me most is a statement the pirates issued about two weeks into the standoff. They had demanded an $8 million ransom for the ship, its crew and cargo, a number which has since oscillated between $5 and $12 million. The statement said that any money they recieved from a ransom payment would be used partly to clean up the heavily polluted Somali coast, and blamed European and Asian shipping firms for dumping spectacular loads of toxic and nuclear waste material into the seas surrounding Somalia.
Nobody seems to be talking about that, now, do they?

According to a story on Al Jazeera‘s website, the dumping’s been going on for some time. Swiss and Italian firms apparently contracted with Somali warlords in the early 90’s to provide for the dumping of waste along the coast. Those firms were later revealed to be shell companies set up by larger industrial concerns to find places to get rid of waste. And what waste! Radioactive waste, hospital waste, chemical wastes, cadmium, uranium, mercury and lead.
During the 2004 tsunami, rafts of cracked barrels filled with the most toxic shit imaginable washed up on shore all along the length of Somalia’s very long coast. Lots of people were sickened, lots of people died. And the life of the waters off the coast has been catastrophically affected, throughout the height of the water column, in one of the most biodiverse marine areas on Earth. Fisheries have collapsed, and in fact whole communities of marine organisms have been destroyed. The coastal population of Somali people has seen one of its few reliable food sources disappear, in addition to being swarmed by tumors and having their fingers fall off.
Warlords and pirates, in addition to attacking shipping vessels in the area, have also been targetting illegal fishing boats. Since Somalia has no central government, and thus no coastal patrols, illegal fishing has been raking the coasts clean of fish for twenty years, leading to further population collapses and ecological annihilation.
Who knows exactly how disingenuous the pirates are being when they propose to use millions of dollars to help coastal populations, but a question worth posing is this: who else is going to make any protest of this kind of business-as-usual? Probably no-one. Who else is going to do anything but destroy the oceans off Somalia? Probably no-one. This kind of dumping is going on all over the world, and its ripple effects will far outweigh the ripples from the evaporation of a couple trillion dollars of fake money. This is how the world is being killed, and at this point, it’s normal, you know? How many barrels are already rolling around in the deep? The wholesale destruction perpetrated by industrial humanity never fails to astound.


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2 comments on “Somali Pirates Twist the Knife”

… didn’t know that part of the story. yikes. here’s a link to some more horrific tales of ocean-dumped chemicals, many, of course, by the USA or US armed forces.
the best/worst is the story about a barge which would sail out into the ocean off San Francisco once or twice each week (1955-1959) and dump the barrels of radioactive waste it carried into the ocean. This is told by the US Navy sailor whose job “was to shoot holes in the barrels that did not immediately sink, so that they would.”
hard to believe, like what you wrote above… but also sadly and terribly true…

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