Doing something, anything, that seems positive—while not really addressing the problem at all—seems to be the modus operandi of the multinational maritime anti-piracy elements in the Gulf of Aden. But as the months drag on without a concrete impact on regional piracy, hard questions need to be asked.
By some accounts, upward of 30 warships now patrol the Gulf of Aden, conducting anti-piracy operations under various task forces and flags. Typically, between five and ten U.S. Navy warships are supporting the effort, officials claim. While a small anti-piracy coalition task force directed from the U.S.-led maritime headquarters in Bahrain has plied these waters for years, the brunt of the anti-piracy forces arrived in early 2009 after several high-profile vessel seizures. To date, assessments on the effectiveness of the effort are mixed, though in general it has been a localized success. The transit corridor and escort schema have worked well, and merchant ships seem to be closely following prudent ship-security practices; fewer attacks in the region resulted in ship seizures over the past year.