It is a country already considered one of the biggest maritime arms smugglers, in addition to being accused of letting its military charge “protection fees”, akin to those of mobs, to companies operating within its borders. However, Yemen has devised a strategy for raising money that can be considered either ingenious or moronic. Already faced with corruption through the majority of military branches, it has decided to use its military for a more economic and productive purpose.
The Yemen government has opened up a website through which ships can hire the Yemen Coast Guard and Navy to escort them through the waters around Yemen. The protection is through “a heavily armored 37.5 meter Yemen Navy Austal patrol boat” and “six serving Yemen military or coast guard personnel.” It carries a large price tag of $55,000 per trip. While this may seem like a lot, the waters around Yemen are considered some of the most dangerous in the world with 100 pirate attacks last year and over 400 hostages taken from ship hijackings. They are also some of the most traveled in the world. In addition, many of the ships that would be in severe danger of hijacking would be large container ships that would have the resources necessary to pay this fee, on top of all of the reviews for the service have been phenomenal. Unfortunately, the military will only accept about half of all offers.
Much of the debate about these operations, comes up when foreign aid is added in to the equation. Much of the Yemen military has been created through foreign investments, such as the United States’ $1.2 billion military aid package over the next few years. If this money is going to help the Yemen military, is it right for them to possibly turn around and sell the use of equipment or training they have acquired? Sadly, when reporters questioned the coast guard (Yemen's most legitimate and special ops military branch) where the military aid went, they had to tactfully avoid the question. This brings serious doubts to mind on whether or not the country truly deserves foreign aid, or if the idea at some point is the country will just become too well protected for corruption to happen in mass.
While, I can understand the reasoning for Yemen’s use of its navy and coast guard, I cannot personally justify it. On the other side, perhaps it is a good way to make the most of an inefficiently operated military (people always do their best when money is at stake), and the ships in the most danger of being attacked are the ones who will buy the service. By protecting the most lucrative ships for pirates to attack, pirates may have to cease their operations if they can no longer create a profit with their operations. The Foreign Policy article does bring up a great debate and begs the question, could this become a norm for developing nations?