A relatively low-risk operation, with huge rewards: That is why they do it. Reverse that equation and we'll have a solution to the piracy problem. How is the difficult question.
First, let's make use of what we know regarding best practices to detect, deter and defend against attacks. It would be interesting to analyze the actions of the crews on ships where successful pirate attacks have occurred. If the results of such an analysis turn out to be anything like other written policies and procedures, adherence to the ship security plan's anti-piracy procedures may be sketchy at best. Perhaps the plans are vague and do not reflect best practices for anti-piracy procedures. Implementing the best plans and procedures should be the first step. An IMO/flag state surge operation to ensure ISPS conformity with anti-piracy best practices should be considered.
Secondly, there should be an international convoy system for high-threat waters, set up through the United Nations. Convoys have been used successfully during wartime for much greater threats than pirates. The difference may be that wartime threats are seen as national security issues and piracy is currently viewed as a private industry issue. The case should be made that an international convoy system is warranted due to the current international security threat of piracy.
Finally, as the United States learned early in its history, the ultimate solution to piracy may only be found in the use of deadly force. In the 1790s, according to Joshua London's book, Victory in Tripoli, hundreds of U.S. merchant seamen were enslaved in North Africa by the pirates of the Barbary Coast. The piracy continued even after years of negotiations and payoffs, including an annual allotment of $100,000 authorized by Congress in 1792. Two years later Congress decided the United States required a Navy to protect against the "depredations committed by the Algerine corsairs on the commerce of the United States." But it wasn't until 1805 when the decision was made to send in the U.S. Marine Corps to the "shores of Tripoli" that an end was finally put to it.
We should learn from history and pass a U.N. resolution to use a multinational force to destroy the piracy infrastructure ashore in Somalia. As William Eaton, U.S. Consul to Tunis, stated, regarding the Barbary pirates, "He who makes himself a sheep must expect to be devoured by the wolf."
Kevin Gilheany is a maritime industry consultant and a retired Coast Guard marine inspector.