Figures from IMB said that there were 237 piracy related incidents in 2011, when the phenomenon reached its height. In 2012, the figure dropped to 75 and as of 14th October of this year, there have only been 10 incidents in 2013, only two of which were hijackings.
Looking at the IMB figures more closely, it appears that the downward pattern in terms of frequency and capability began in mid 2012. In May last year, Smyrni was hijacked in the Indian Ocean and was finally released after a ransom was paid in March this year. This was the last ship of commercial size and value to be hijacked by the infamous Somali pirates. More vessels have been hijacked since then, however they were small fishing boats and the last incident occurred in June of this year. There have of course been other attacks on boats in the Somali basin and Indian ocean, however it has not been made clear it these were isolated incidents or a renewed rise in piracy.
There are three reasons that explain why the drop in piracy has occurred:
- The presence of private armed security on board the majority of commercial vessels.
- The changing tactics adopted by international naval forces.
- The changing situation onshore that has reduced the operational environment for pirate groups.
In the region surrounding the hub of such incidents, the naval forces can be split in to two types: UN NAVFOR and US combined task forces on counter piracy mandates along with those from other countries that conduct escort services for ships transiting the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor. There has recently been a change in tactics amongst the former set, and especially the UN NAVFOR towards intelligence led interdictions of motherships and close to shore activities seeking to take out piracy action groups before they reach the open sea and a boat.
Part of the above has been an increase in ‘friendly approaches’ which involve naval vessels conducting close range inspections of boats. These act as intelligence gathering opportunities and as deterrents. In September of this year, Meteoro, a Spanish warship conducted 23 friendly approaches in just five days.
Political dynamics onshore have also gained momentum. Since the first offshore wells were drilled in semi autonomous Puntland at the beginning of 2012, oil has become a deciding factor in the reduction of piracy. The Puntland Maritime Police Force, a privately paramilitary force armed and funded by the UAE, have celebrated their third birthday, and their creation is no doubt a deterrence.
Adapted from press release by Claira Lloyd
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