German shippers see no let-up in piracy -study


German shippers are increasingly turning to private security suppliers to combat the threat of piracy, a study showed.

Somali pirates are making millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing ships in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, despite attempts by international navies to clamp down on such attacks.

A senior British navy officer said on Tuesday efforts to combat piracy off the Somali coast had reduced the number of successful attacks on merchant ships, though the battle was far from over, Reuters reports.

However, only 17 percent of the German shippers surveyed believed the EU mission in Somalia, Operation Atalanta, was contributing a significant amount to the fight against piracy, compared with 40 percent last year, according to the study by consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) .

The vast majority, 80 percent, also felt that the payment of ransoms had worsened the problem and they all saw no sign of the problems easing.

A cargo ship owned by Bremen-based Beluga Shipping was released by Somali pirates in April, with the pirates claiming they had received a $5 million ransom.

With shippers believing pirates had become more professional and were now targeting wider areas, 27 of the 100 surveyed said they were using private, armed security services.

This in spite of a warning from insurer Munich Re (MUVGn.DE: Quote) that using armed teams, which can cost up to $6,000 a day, could escalate the violence.

Along with fighting piracy, the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has also led to higher costs for shippers because of the need for detours and additional security checks.

However, almost 50 percent said they still expected growth for the next 12 months, with 55 percent expecting freight rates to rise. Only between 7 and 12 percent forecast a drop in rates.

After recovering last year, shipping rates began to fall again at the end of 2010 and have remained under pressure this year.

A.P. Moller-Maersk (MAERSKb.CO: Quote), the owner of the world’s largest container shipping company Maersk Line, said in May it expected second-quarter results to be hit by lower freight rates but forecast rising rates later in the year.
“Shippers are without doubt benefiting from the economic upturn and the continuing export boom in Germany,” said Claus Brandt, head of the maritime competence centre at PwC.