Somali piracy still poses a significant threat as numbers remain high and criminals remain heavily armed, say experts, who maintain that figures showing a reduction in Somali piracy mask the true numbers.
While International Maritime Bureau (IMB) statistics covering 2012 depict a reduction in Somali piracy, now relegating the country to second place in number of acts of overall piracy, the danger faced from Somalian Pirates in the Gulf of Aden are as potent as ever, according to maritime security company Typhon.
Somalia’s pirates are still responsible for around 2/3 of the world’s hijackings, and attack more steaming ships than any other pirates in the world.
Global pirate attacks on ships fell to 297 in 2012, compared with 439 in 2011, and was at its lowest since 2008 when 293 incidents were recorded, according to the IMB.
About 10 percent of those attacks resulted in the ship being successfully hijacked. Twenty eight vessels were taken in 2012, down from 45 in 2011 and 53 in 2010. Of those 28, 14 were commandeered by Somali gangs, half the number taken in 2011, said the IMB, which has been monitoring global piracy since 1991.
As of March 13, 47 incidences of piracy and armed robbery at sea have been recorded this year, and three hijackings. Somali pirates are holding five vessels and 65 hostages.
According to Typhon, the statistics that show a fall in the region are somewhat misleading. “With the cost of piracy to business rocketing, companies are now finding ways to avoid the costly reporting process that takes place when an act of piracy has been endured,” the company said.
Ant Sharp, CEO of Typhon Maritime Security explained, “Ships who report acts of piracy are then required to dock for long periods lasting up to a year to undergo investigation. This means severe disruption at a high cost to ships carrying valuable cargo. A third of the ships hit by pirates are tankers carrying crude oil or chemical products.
“Added on to these delays is the hike in insurance premiums then suffered by the shipping company, who see their profits hit from two angles despite being the victims. This lead to a situation where if an act of piracy takes place where no injury or heavy duty damage is sustained, it is becoming an increasingly common practice to deal with the incident internally.”
The drastic reduction in piracy is largely due to the presence of international warships around the Gulf of Aden and the use of private maritime security companies. So far, not a single ship with armed guards has been taken by pirates – although naval officers and other piracy specialists say hired guards can be excessively trigger-happy and have fired on innocent fishermen from India, Oman and Yemen.