MS Risk Blog

Cost of Somali Piracy Declines; Piracy in West Africa Continues to Rise

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According to the latest Oceans Beyond Piracy report, the cost of Somali piracy to the global economy fell by almost half last year as attacks in the region continued to decline.  However piracy in West Africa continued to rise.

Somali Piracy

According to the Oceans Beyond Piracy report, attacks carried out by Somali pirates in 2013 continued to decline, with only 23 vessels being attacked throughout the past year.  While no large vessels transiting the region were successfully attacked or hijacked, the threat of piracy to regional traffic remains high.

Armed security teams aboard vessels in the Indian Ocean were relatively prevalent on those vessels reporting suspect activity:  100 vessels out of 145 reporting suspicious approaches had security teams aboard, as did 10 out of the 19 vessels that reported attacks.  Furthermore, twenty-seven of the 100 vessels with security teams aboard during suspicious approaches reported firing warning shots in a bid to deter suspicious approaches, while eight out of ten vessels with security teams on board during attacks reported exchanging fire with pirates.

The latest annual security report put the total cost of Somali piracy at US $3.2 billion (£1.88 billion) in 2013.   Over the past year, there were still at least fifty hostages being held captive in Somalia.

At the height of Somali pirate attacks in 2011, up to a dozen or more merchant vessels were being held captive at any one time as pirate gangs awaited to receive multimillion-dollar ransom payments.  While Somali piracy was by far the largest single threat to international shipping in recent years, the increase of international navies in the region, coupled with embarked security teams on board vessels transiting the High Risk Area (HRA), has resulted in a sharp decline in pirate attacks, with the last successful hijacking of a merchant vessel occurring two years ago.  However this decline is easily reversible.  Furthermore, this decline in Somali piracy has effectively paved the way for a new region to take over the status of being a piracy hot spot.

West African Piracy

For the second year in a row, the number of piracy attacks in West Africa was greater than that in the Indian Ocean.  According to statistics provided by Oceans Beyond Piracy, an estimated 100 attacks occurred off West Africa in 2013.  This included 42 hostage-taking attacks and 58 robbery attempts.

In the past year, the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa has developed into the new piracy threat to international shipping, however pirate and criminal gangs operating in the region greatly differ from those groups operating in the Gulf of Aden.  Reports of piracy attacks, kidnappings and hijackings in the Gulf of Guinea have demonstrated that piracy in the region are more violent then those seen in waters off Somalia.  According to the new Oceans Beyond Piracy, analysts have observed “…a high degree of violence in this region,” adding that “the constantly evolving tactics of West African piracy make it extremely difficult to isolate it from other elements of organized crime.”

While providing accurate statistics for the Gulf of Guinea continues to be difficult, mainly due to incomplete reporting, it is evident that there was a rise in the number of seafarers who were kidnapped in the region last year.

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