Book review of Deadly Waters by Jay Bahadur
Inside the hidden world of Somalia’s Pirates
Published in 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Jay Bahadur is a Canadian journalist from Toronto and in January 2009 flew to Dubai from where he caught a connecting flight to Somalia in an aged Soviet era propeller driven plane.
‘Where the white man runs away’
He finds himself the only Westerner on board, and heading for Puntland, a semi-autonomous region billed as among the most dangerous in the world, and he is only armed with an email invitation from the local radio station host.
Bahadur spends the next six weeks living in the town of Garowe, the epicentre of the pirates’ homeland.
Puntland occupies half of Somalia’s sixteen hundred kilometres of coastline from the Gulf of Aden stretching southwards to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.
It is ideal pirate territory given volume of seaborne traffic heading past on route either to or from the Gulf, which in turn leads on to the Red Sea and Suez Canal.
Garowe lies in the northern half of Somalia, a small town on the main, and probably only road heading north/south, it is well inland from the sea and truly an ideal pirates’ lair in the back of beyond.
On the coast is Eyl, a small fishing village, made infamous by the news coverage of ship hijackings in recent years.
Deadly Waters begins by describing Boyah, immensely tall with an air of menace, and his lifestyle.
This Somalian pirate claims to have hijacked dozens of ships, yet refers to himself as the saviour of the sea, or coastguard.
He explains he used to be a humble fisherman until foreign fishing fleets devastated the reefs he owed his livelihood to in the waters off Eyl.
So he started capturing trawlers and ransoming the crew, soon progressing to richer pickings-large commercial ships which they would approach in speedy skiffs from all sides like a waterborne wolf pack.
As nobody was killed, ship owners found it easier to pay up rather than to escalate by arming the crews.
That was until the Americans declared the Somalian pirate gangs ‘terrorists’, making it illegal to pay any monies to them. And then things got lively.
Deadly Waters is easy to read, easy to understand and totally absorbing. It gives a wider picture of the reasons why, and politics behind the scenes as well as describing the pirates adventures at sea.
A must read.