Just when shipping companies thought it was safe to go back in the water — off the Horn of Africa in particular — Somali pirates last week nabbed two large chemical tankers within 24 hours, despite the presence of a bevy of Western and other navies prowling in search of the buccaneers.
Time Magazine says the Greek-owned MV Nipayia was snagged last Wednesday, followed within a day by the capture of the Norwegian-owned MV Bow-Asir (pictured).
“The attacks, which occurred at 380 and 490 nautical miles offshore, showed a willingness by the pirates to operate at great distances from their lairs along the Somali coastline,” the Us magazine saysin its latest issue.
“While international navies have heralded the successes of their antipiracy patrols of recent months, last week’s captures — and the piracy statistics for the past three months — don’t offer much cause for comfort to the shipping industry”.
Last year, according to a UN report, there were 111 attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Aden corridor, which marked a 200% increase over the previous year’s figures.
“Now, despite the presence of ships from more than 20 of the world’s navies in the Gulf of Aden, the International Maritime Bureau says there have been 51 attacks in the first three months of 2009 alone.
“And the international shipping association BIMCO says piracy attacks have spread to ships traveling nowhere near the Gulf of Aden,” Time adds. “Still, analysts and antipiracy advocates see some reasons for optimism. While the number of attacks has gone up, their rate of success at actually seizing control of vessels has declined. In December, 1 in every 5 attacks was successful; the data for March suggests that only 1 in every 10 pirate raids succeeded.”
The lower success rate, according to Michael Howlett, divisional director for the International Maritime Bureau in London, “is due to the naval presence, and also the ships know this is a high-risk area, and they have certain [countermeasures] in place.”
More sobering, though, is the possibility that many of the attacks failed because of the bad weather that is typical in the region during the first three months of the year. Attacks off Somalia typically increase in the second quarter of the year, as sailing conditions improve.