FocusShip owners warned of complacency despite fall in pirate attacks

17 August 2012 12:30  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Statistics released earlier this week revealed that pirate attacks attributable to Somali groups have fallen to their lowest levels seen in over four years.

However, despite these signs of encouragement, experts warn there can be no room for complacency by ship owners, adding attacks will likely rise again following the end of the monsoon season in September.

“The bad weather continues to create inhospitable conditions for pirates to successfully conduct their attacks, this is certainly one reason for the lower numbers we are currently seeing” said Rory Lamrock, intelligence analyst at UK-headquartered AKE Group.

According to data from AKE Group and Dubai-based logistics firm GAC Protective Solutions, there was just one attempted pirate attack by Somali groups in July, reported in the Red Sea. Globally, pirate activity in July dropped to 18 attacks from June’s total of 23.

Although attacks on smaller vessels are commonplace, there has been no successful pirate attack on a major chemical or product tanker off the horn of Africa since the Greek-owned oil tanker MV Smyrni was hijacked in the Arabian Sea on 10 May.

Experts suggest this drop in piracy is also part of a general trend currently being witnessed, and is a result of improved naval operations and increased awareness among ship owners.

“The reporting of suspicious behavior has helped naval forces to respond faster and investigate and deter any potential pirate attacks before they occur,” said Timo Lange, spokesperson at the European Union Naval Force.  

Lange also pointed to greater compliance among industry players to conform to the best management practices, which is also helping to discourage pirate gangs, and making attacks less likely to be successful when they do occur. 

Figures from the International Maritime Bureau in July showed that 69 incidents of Somali pirate activity were reported to its Piracy Reporting Centre in the first six months of 2012, compared with 163 incidents in 2011.

Federal and regional efforts in Somalia to tackle the root causes of piracy have also gone a long way to improving the situation, however, there can be “no room for complacency,” warns Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau.

Before the onset of the monsoon season, Somali pirates were starting to attack areas such as the southern Red Sea. “This is somewhere they had not previously attempted to launch their attacks from,” said Mukundan.

The Red Sea remains the most direct and economical route for vessels transiting between Europe and East Asia, and is also a major trade hub for chemicals.

As long as this remains the case, Mukundan believes efforts must be stepped up to solve the root causes of piracy in Somalia.

The Oceans beyond Piracy project assesses the cost of Somali piracy in 2011 to be between $6.6bn-6.9bn (€5.3bn-5.6bn).

Of these costs, Oceans beyond Piracy estimates 80% was paid for by the shipping industry and 20% by governments, with 99.5% of this a recurring cost and only 0.5% going towards long-term strategies to control it.

“Unless we focus on solving the problems ashore in the piracy affected parts of Somalia it is unlikely that we will ever see this problem go away and we could still be where we are or worse, even five years from now,” Mukundan said.

($1 = €0.81)

By: Neha Popat
+44 208 652 3214

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