Piracy Attacks Drop to Zero for First Full Month in Five Years

Mike Pflanz, Telegraph (London), August 8, 2012

There has been no successful hijack since June 19, when a fishing dhow was seized, and no ship has been fired upon or a boarding attempted since June 26, when a Maltese-flagged cargo ship was attacked, according to data from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

It marks the longest unbroken stretch of peaceful transit through the waters off Somalia, and was attributed to the increased use of armed guards on ships, international naval patrols, and bad weather.

“This is traditionally a quiet time for pirate attacks, but there has always been at least a handful of incidences even during the monsoon months of July and August,” said Cyrus Mody at the IMB’s London office.

“However since June 26 this year, we have seen no activity whatsoever in the southern Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Arabia or the Somali Basin.

“It’s the first time we’ve had a full month where nothing’s happened since before Somali piracy really grew into a major problem in 2007.”

The pirates’ temporary disappearance comes on the heels of a 60 per cent reduction in their activity in the first six months of 2012 compared to the same stretch last year, from 163 incidents to 69.

Despite this, as many as 191 crew from up to 14 merchant vessels and fishing boats are still being held.

Roughly three dozen warships from the Royal Navy, the US Navy, EU countries, Nato, Russia, China and India currently patrol the more than one million square miles of sea off the Horn of Africa.

“We’ve learnt a lot about piracy and we’re being a great deal more proactive in disrupting their activities,” said Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, operational commander of the EU’s antipiracy mission, Operation Atalanta.

These new tactics have involved helicopter gunship attacks on pirate logistics basis onshore for the first time, and targeting teams working together in what are called “pirate action groups”.

Ships’ captains have been taught how to accelerate and evade attack. Hulls are now festooned with barbed wire and powerful water hoses to deter pirates as they try to climb aboard.

“All this has come at the same time as the quantum increase in the use of private armed security contractors, who have to date had a 100 per cent success rate preventing hijacks” said Rear Adm Potts.

A majority of vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden and the northwest Indian Ocean are now thought to be carrying armed guards, mandated to protect ships first with warning shots and then with direct fire.

“The naval forces would perhaps dispute this, but I would say that private security is by far the major factor, not the warships,” said Stig Jarle Hansen, a Norwegian expert on Somali piracy.

“Pirate commanders I have spoken to onshore tell me that its those armed guards they’re most afraid of.”

In 2009, the most successful year for Somali pirates, one in three vessels that were targeted ended up hijacked and its crew held hostage.

By late last year, that figure was as low as one in 20 for the most valuable prizes, most of which now carry private security staff.

That has forced the remaining pirate cells to target fishing boats of limited value rather than large oil carriers, cargo ships or private yachts. In some cases, pirates have turned to other business, such as kidnapping, Prof Hansen said.

But there were warnings that international cartels who fronted the investment to put pirates to sea would “bide their time and then come back” once the warships left or private security was cancelled.

“All of this tactical and operational progress is however easily lost if we do not irreversibly change the strategic context on the ground that allows piracy to exist in the first place,” Rear Adm Potts said.

“If all of our vessels moved on, and the shipping industry slowed down its vigilance over security, word would soon enough get around. Piracy still is one of the best ways to earn a living in Somalia.”

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  • JackKrak

    The pirates probably had appointments at the UK embassy for their refugee visas & had to pick out the patterns for the wallpaper and carpet in their new million pound London homes.

  • loyalwhitebriton

    Any reduction in piracy is obviously welcome. However, I’m dismayed that “private security contractors” need to be employed, as this simply increases the cost to shipping companies.
    In the ‘Good ole’ days’, the Royal Navy would capture pirates, whether Barbary or Black African, tie them up, and throw them overboard…..

  • IKantunderstand

    Oh please, somali attacks are down simply because all those s.o.b.s are now taxi drivers in Minnesota.

  • IstvanIN

    They’ll be back.

  • Rocky Bass,

    Wish I were a millionaire, and could afford to have built some really vulnerable looking vessels to tool about in that area. Bet I could shocka Zulu or two, when they discovered that my smooth fiberglass hull was in reality a glassed over WALL of cannons. Hell my imagination runs wild at the though of such a “pleasure cruise”.  

    • IstvanIN

       LOL.  You do have the imagination of a boy playing with his little green plastic soldiers!  Are they still legal in this country?

      • Rocky Bass,

         I think so 🙂 if not sshhhh.

  • Global Minority

    How much are they paying them to stop? It didn’t work in Thomas Jefferson’s time and will not work for very long now. You can never pay them enough to stop. Their demands will become more and more.

  • David Ashton

    Note especially the reference to “international cartels who fronted the investment”.

  • LaSantaHermandad

    You gotta love the Russians.  At least they have “яйца”.
    “cojones”.