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Italian government pays millions to Somali TFG during hijack talks! August 2, 2011

Posted by Chris Mark in Uncategorized.
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The deepwater tugboat MV Buccaneer was slowly towing two large barges at 4-5 knots in the Gulf of Aden.

Because it was moving too slowly to join a convoy, and because its rear deck was designed to be low and to the water line–or low and slow–the crew of 10 Italians, 5 Romanians and 1 Croat was an easy target for Somali pirates.  2-3 weeks after being hijacked  the Italian Navy ship San Giorgio arrived in the vicinity to take up a position approximately eight miles off the coast of Somalia.  Italian Special Forces, who arrived on the San Giorgio, routinely positioned themselves and their small boats in close proximity to the Buccaneer so that they could react within 20-30 seconds to an assault by the pirates on the hostages.

The Italian Crisis Unit worked under the direct supervision of the “highest levels” of the Italian Government, using a “three-pillar approach of diplomatic, military and intelligence resources.  Under Italian law, no ransom could be paid to release the sailors.

The owner of one of the barges offered to pay a ransom, but was informed that proceeding with that course of action would result in prosecution by the Italian courts.  The Italian government had an aversion to a military operation because of the negative Italian public opinion that would likely follow any loss of life.

At some point–and this is where things get extremely blurred– Italian Special Forces were cleared to board the Buccaneer after all the pirates vacated the ship.  The crew was believed to have been treated reasonably well with the exception of a “beating on one of the Romanians” by the pirates.

So what did the Italian government do and how much was paid?  It paid financial support in 2009 dedicated to “Somali institutions and to the peace process” totaling 13 million Euros or $18.5 million USD.  Additional monies have been distributed through the Italian Development Cooperation.

The official story on the Buccaneer release is a substantial but incomplete accounting of factors that brought this situation to a peaceful conclusion.  Gaining the release of the Italian vessel and hostages was a top priority for the Italian government, and rightfully so, but how the situation got to where it was completely preventable.  Prime Minister Berlusconi himself reportedly made many of the early critical decisions.

Think of the cost benefit ratio that a small armed security element could have provided at a fraction of the cost both economically and politically, for both the shipping company and the Italian government.


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