Piracy is down, can we all go home?

With the number of pirate attacks on maritime shipping off the coast of Somalia down over the past year, there are increasing calls to declare that the threat from piracy is over.

Last month the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said that the number of ships reporting attacks by Somali pirates fell this year to its lowest level since 2009. Worldwide, pirates have killed at least six crew and taken 448 seafarers hostage this year. The IMB reports that 125 vessels were boarded, 24 hijacked and 26 fired upon while there were 58 attempted attacks.

The drop in Somali piracy brings down the figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea to 233 incidents for 2012, which is the lowest third quarter total since 2008, the IMB said. “In the first nine months of 2012, there were 70 Somali attacks compared with 199 for the corresponding period in 2011. And from July to September, just one ship reported an attempted attack by Somali pirates, compared with 36 incidents in the same three months last year.”

“Does this mean that Somali piracy is at an end?” asked Captain (Retired) Philip Holihead, Head of the Djibouti Code of Conduct, Implementation Unit, at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Holihead noted that governments and ship owners, who are spending millions to provide security, will hope that it is. Conversely, there are others, such as security and insurance companies, who are less keen to see piracy at an end.

“Then there will be those who are torn, because piracy is a source of their livelihood,” Holihead noted in a speech read out on his behalf at the Maritime and Coastal Security Africa 2012 conference currently under way in Cape Town.

He noted that it applies as much to himself “as it does to those senior naval officers, who are creating new roles for their naval forces, which are facing cuts and dilution as inter-state wars become a thing of the past.”

Holihead stated that naval forces had gained the upper hand for the first time since 2008. He remarked that this success can only be sustained if current anti-piracy efforts were to remain in place. This was because little else has changed in the background to prevent the attacks from happening again.

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Article written by Dean Wingrin, courtesy of Defence Web.

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