Pirates have an awful lot to worry about these days. Unlike their predecessors, it isn’t all just bottles of rum, the occasional crude prosthetic in place of an actual limb or singing songs about pillaging and plundering that occupies their time. There are threats in many forms, from special forces sniper bullets to American Top 40 artists. The British Navy now has a new weapon in the fight against Somali pirates. Crews on board Her Majesty’s ships have begun broadcasting Britney Spears’s music from their decks in an effort to drive would-be plunderers away.
“Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most,” Merchant Navy Second Officer Rachel Owens explained to The Metro UK newspaper. “It’s so effective the ship’s security rarely needs to resort to firing guns.”
Lest you believe these words are the deranged ramblings of a seafaring woman who has been away for too long, the Security Association For the Maritime Industry, a professional group for companies that protect passing ships, confirmed that the use of Britney Spears’s music is a highly effective means of warding off attackers. A spokesman for the group said, “Pirates will go to any lengths to avoid or try to overcome the music.” He added that, “As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney, they move on as quickly as they can.”
According to a U.N. report, attacks by Somali pirates on passing vessels are down almost 80 percent from this time last year. Piracy in Somali has become a way of life for many in the developing country. According to the United Nations, Somali pirates have captured over $400 million since 2006, $40 million of which was earned last year.
Although Britney Spears may be an effective deterrent, it is likely not the reason for the drop in attacks. The political landscape of Somalia is changing as Shabab, an Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group, has risen to prominence in neighboring Kenya. The group controls much of the economy in Somalia. While stealing from passing ships was likely an effective means of earning money in previous years, it has grown progressively more dangerous as the presence of security forces in the area have been significantly increased. It is very possible that Shabab, which claimed responsibility for many of the attacks, simply decided the risk for the reward was too high.
The group, which claimed responsibility for last month’s attack in a mall that left more than 67 dead, are highly disciplined, trained and well funded.
Shabab, which means “youth” in Arabic, is so entrenched in every aspect of the regional economy in Africa that the United Nations is having difficulty imposing sanctions aimed at crippling the group without harming everyday Somalis, relying upon aid from international groups in order to survive.
The music of Britney Spears may keep pirates at bay, but it seems highly unlikely that it will prove to be a long-term solution for creating stability and lasting peace in the region.