"Experts identify dry cargo ships and tankers as main targets of modern sea piracy."
Maritime terrorism is one specific expression of international terrorism. The first serious occurrence of maritime terrorist actions is the hijacking of the Italian passenger ship “Achille Lauro.” This capture was carried out by a battle group of the terrorist organization “Front for Liberation of Palestine” in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1985.
The vulnerability of the military and commercial shipping to maritime terrorism was shown during the attack by the fighters of Al Qaeda against USS DDG “Cole” on October 12, 2000. This is not the only incident when the organization of Bin Laden carried out terrorist actions at sea against the USA. In 2000, of the coast of Yemen, the fighters of the organization captured a boat in order to execute attack against the USS DDG “Sullivans.” They did not succeed. The boat was overloaded with explosives and nearly sunk. In 2002, again in Yemen’s territorial waters, a boat used by terrorists detonated the French oil tanker SS “Limburg.”
Bin Laden and businessmen, who share his ideas, own shipping companies. The companies execute illegal commercial operations used to finance the terrorists. Also in 1998, one of Al Qaeda ships delivered a great amount of explosives to Africa.
Later, parts of these explosives were used in the attacks against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Given sufficient amount of money, it is not difficult to turn a civil vessel into a semi-military one. At one point, Bin Laden spread the message that the “Al Qa5da Navy” includes 20 “naval” ships.
With the attack against the USS DDG “Cole” the terrorists aimed to provoke fear, anxiety and painful reaction in the US society. It is believed that following the example of “Al Qaeda” some Asian and Middle East terrorist groups also prepare to carry out such attacks.
On October 23, 2000, boats steered by volunteers-kamikaze from the group “Tigers for the Liberation of Tamil Eelam” destroyed a Sri Lankan naval ship and damaged another one. This terrorist organization has a subdivision called “Sea Tigers.” Periodically, groups from this subdivision carry out attacks against the Sri Lankan Navy.
In one of the strikes in 2001 both sides participated with total of 18 ships. In this particular strike the Sri Lankan Navy lost three patrol boats.
On 7 October 2000, a boat steered by the volunteer-suicides from “Hamas” exploded in advance, thus causing only negligible damage to an Israeli naval ship.
Bulgaria, as a sea nation, often faces problems related to maritime terrorism. The list of accidents with ships, sailing under Bulgarian flag, or vessels under foreign flag with Bulgarian crew, is very long. Terrorist and related acts are being carried out today and have happened before. They are carried out at sea, far from Bulgarian territorial waters, but also in the rivers and in our ports.
Among the examples are the 1994 hijacking of the river oil tanker “Khan Kubrat,” sailing under Bulgarian flag along theriver Danube; the explosives found on the passenger ship “Balkan Princess” in the port of Rousse in October 2002; and the attack against the French oil tanker “Lim-burg” with Bulgarian crew in the territorial waters of Yemen in the same year. Inci-dents of pseudo-terrorism on the motor ship “Elena” and pseudo-piracy on the motor ship “Aquarius 1” deserve to be mentioned, too.
Maritime terrorism is seen as a combination of illegal actions that affect—di-rectly or indirectly—the interests of a nation at sea or on land. These actions may be grouped into several main categories: piracy, robbery, assaults, hijacking, and illegal trafficking of weapons, people and drugs. The origins of maritime terrorism are connected to piracy. The piracy is an old crime with international character. Roman law identifies pirates as the enemy of society – Pirata hostis generis humani. The international character of pirates’ attacks in the remote past is identified by protection from several nations, lack of respect for sovereign rights stemming from internationally acknowledged borders and flag nation; or avoiding persecution using water areas controlled by a third nation.
There are different forms of piracy, for example maritime and coastal piracy, capers and corsairs. This crime exhibits significant stability. It not only survives, but evolves and sometimes even leaves behind public development. In the middle Ages pirates created their own quasi-state organizations with democratically elected governing bodies in accordance with precise rules. During the times of great geographic discoveries pirates were discoverers and conquerors of new lands.
In the Twentieth Century, piracy kept its place together with other acts of international organized crime. Fighting piracy is a public task. Hence, the 1958 Geneva Open Sea Convention defined ways to fight against piracy.
After the end of the Cold War terrorism and piracy continue to be a well-known phenomenon in many regions of the world. The disintegration of the bipolar political model and changes in the value systems led to the moral collapse in some social groups in the Eastern European nations. Processes of conversion and chaotic reforms in the armed forces and the intelligence services left jobless a great number of highly qualified personnel from defense and intelligence services, Special Forces and others.
Moral collapse and economic crisis gave grounds for personnel with special skills to join the criminal contingent. The perfect organization and maritime training of the Somalia pirates makes viable the thesis that many among them are former coastguard officers and professional seamen.
Such circumstances facilitate ‘partnerships’ between partisan-terrorists and organized criminal groups. Partisan and terrorist groups have developed symbiotic links to organized crime in order to finance their activity. Thus, western democracies are confronted with the challenge to identify precisely the new enemy at sea.
Solutions of the problems of terrorism at sea and piracy are sought in the framework of the declared total war against terrorism. Many areas of the world ocean are proclaimed dangerous for shipping because of high level of pirate activity. In accordance with data of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in London, the number of pirate attacks on merchant vessels for the last decade tripled.
During the period from 1998 until 2002, a total of 1,228 pirate attacks were carried out.
In the beginning of 2005, reduction of the number of pirate attacks was observed in comparison with the same period of the previous year (182 attacks for the period of January–June 2004 and 127 attacks for the period of January–June 2005). Attacks are often carried out in the area near the Somalia seacoast, the Straights of Malacca – the busiest sea area in the world with more than 50 000 passing vessels per year, South China Sea, the waters near port Cochin in India. 92 vessels were attacked and 192 crew members were captured.
Experts identify dry cargo ships and tankers as main targets of modern sea piracy. At the same time, hijacks of tugboats and hydrographic ships are also on the increase.
Most vulnerable to attacks are vessels situated on the roadstead or in quay. There are many attacks against the sailing vessels.
In the IMB report on pirate attacks in the first quarter of 2003, ship owners and masters are warned to be extremely careful in planning for and passing through a number of areas, including coastal waters, straights, roadsteads and ports of Southeastern Asia and the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Straight of Malacca); Africa and the Red Sea (Conakry, Dacca, Dar es Salaam, Lagos, Aden gulf, the area near the Somalia seacoast); South and Central America, Caribbean (Brazil, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guyana, Jamaica, Peru, Venezuela).
The first two regions are largely covered by the so-called ‘strategic triangle.’ The strategic triangle includes three main regions: the Persian Gulf with approximately 65 percent of the world oil reserves, the Caspian Sea and Eastern Asia. These regions provide for 49 percent of present-day output and 75 percent of oil reserves. These resources trigger conflicts between many national, regional and international interests.
The definition of exclusive economic zones in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea leads to disputes among nations regarding their sea boarders. These are particularly severe in key regions, such as Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea and South China Sea. There is a direct connection between the conflict of interests and limited or complete lawlessness. The lack of law and law enforcement mechanisms contributes to the increase of terrorist activity and means and methods in these regions.
The most dangerous maritime region is the area near the Somalia seacoast with a length of 3000 km and distance from a coastal line of 300 km.
The regions with high concentration of pirate actions are identical to the regions of increased terrorist activity. According to the experts, the pirates in Indonesian waters and especially those acting in the Straight of Malacca are under Al Qa5da’s influence.
Terrorist formations also carry out pirate attacks in order to receive funding for their main activity. There is a personnel transfusion from the criminal to the terrorist direction. Pirates are often employed by terrorists to execute special political orders.
Terrorists and pirates possess faster boats, more fire power and safer communications than many of the governments in the region. Their attacks become more intensive and more effective, often causing higher number of casualties. These attacks affect negatively navies, coastguard organizations, navigation, and whole societies.