Friday, February 27, 2009

Ship headed to Eyl: Pirate Haven

Eyl is a port town off the coast of Somalia that pirates have made their own. It sits on the Indian Ocean, approximately 550 miles north of the capital of Mogadishu. It suffered heavy casualties after the 2004 tsunami.

Somalia is a poor country, its economy based on agriculture, but pirates have introduced new industries into Eyl, most of them based on American dollars.

After pirates hijack a ship, usually one that’s headed to the Gulf of Aden and the short cut it provides to the West (otherwise, the ship would need to sail around the entire continent of Africa), the pirates return to Eyl and send out a ransom demand. The ship’s owners usually comply.

That ransom money has built restaurants, fancy houses and the businesses to support them. The BBC has reported that ransoms run between $300,000 and $1.5 million. That goes a long way in a country where the average per capita income is $600.

In 2008, there were 293 attacks on the seas, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Pirates seized 49 of those ships, took most of them to Eyl, and held nearly 900 crewmembers for ransom off the coast of Somalia.

Most of the ransom money has flowed into the new homes, fancy cars, restaurants and businesses of Eyl, Somalia.


This is part of a foreign policy simulation for the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. The events depicted are not actually happening.