High Stakes on the High Seas

By Carlton Purvis

“When crime is down, the first thing people want to do is cut the police force,” says retired Navy Admiral Terry Mc-Knight. That’s true whether the crime is on land or at sea.

McKnight helped establish the Combined Task Force 151, an international coalition of navies charged with patrolling the 1.1 million miles that make up the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in an effort to discourage piracy.

In 2008, the coalition established an Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor (IRTC), which is a safe zone for merchants to travel. Navies patrol the IRTC to prevent and respond to pirate attacks. The United States, Iran, and European Union countries all have an interest in trade in the area. Consequently, they all have navy vessels operating in the region to protect those interests.

The effort has been successful. Since 2008 and the arrival of navies, pirate attacks worldwide have dropped dramatically. In 2012, 297 ships were attacked worldwide compared with 439 the previous year. The drastic change is credited to the reduction in piracy in Somalia, which accounts for 25 percent of attacks. Seventy-five ships reported attacks off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden last year, compared with 237 in 2011.

“It’s very quiet,” said Carolyn Jones, Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy, in a recent interview. The decrease can be attributed to a number of factors, but there’s no doubt that having navies in the area is helpful in policing volatile waters, she said.



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