Pirates operating off the coast of Somalia have blamed ‘overregulation’ and an over-zealous attitude to enforcement of Health and Safety rules for their recent lack of success in major piracy operations.
Abdul As Salam, 26, a pirate from the coastal town of Hobyo, was in despair last week after his boat was impounded by local officials for the third time in six months – this time because the ship’s propeller was not sufficiently shielded to prevent harm to sea mammals. ‘Last time they said the paint on my boat had too much lead in it, and I had to spend a month stripping it and repainting it, but every time they find a new excuse to stop me working.’
Other pirates are frustrated at the amount of paperwork required. Mohammed, also from Hobyo, explained that before he could go to sea, he needed to pass courses in safe rocket propelled grenade handling, water awareness safety course, time management at sea, accounts and bookkeeping introductory level, as well as providing evidence that he had full personal liability insurance.
But even with the correct paperwork Mohammed still landed up in trouble. ‘I was called in for an investigation. They spent six hours going over my boat, and caused me no end of grief over my machete. Apparently I shouldn’t use the same machete for severing the hands of uncooperative hostages and mutinous pirate crew that I use for making my sandwiches. They insisted that I stay in port until I had either two different machetes, or two different coloured and labelled chopping boards and a clear written policy for cleaning the blade after use.’
In addition to the health and safety rules, pirates have already been suffering from international rules banning the taking of undersized ships. Abdul reminisces – ‘I remember when the seas here were full of super tankers. Now, we’re lucky to get the odd lost German couple on a yacht, and we’re not even allowed to catch them any more!’