Piracy Update–8 October 2011

Apparently the fisherman of Somalia have a fear of being mistaken for pirates so the “To remedy this, Puntland officers have initiated a program to identify legitimate fishermen by issuing uniforms and ID cards.” I have some doubt about how long uniforms and ID cards will remain a credible discriminator.

There is a new website that provides some perspective on the pirates themselves written by author of several books and articles on the subject.

The chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Spyros M. Polemis, a “trade association and employers’ organization for ship operators, representing all sectors and trades and about 80% of the world merchant fleet,” has issued a rather inflammatory press release that states that, “Governments have ceded control of the Indian Ocean to pirates and the small deployment of naval forces to the region is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound.” He goes on to suggest a callousness on the part of Western nations rooted in racism. Eaglespeak discusses the news release in full, as well as outlining the convoy protection offered by the Japanese, South Korean, Thai, and Russian Navies.

The reality appears a bit different. In fact it looks like the pirates days of easy pickings have ended, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a dishonest living.

September 29th was “World Maritime Day” and Coast Guard Compass marked the day with a discussion of piracy, “World Maritime Day, Orchestrating the Response to Piracy”.  Among the specifics, was a quote from Robert Gauvin, the Coast Guard’s executive director of piracy policy, “Where a year ago the Somali pirates were seeing a 55 percent success rate, in the first several months of 2011 they have seen only a 17 percent success rate.”

It appears their success rate may be going even lower. Looking at the NATO database, despite improving weather, that was expected to increase the incidence of attacks, the last successful attack in the Somali pirates’ operating area was a sailing yacht taken almost a month ago on Sept. 8. There have been ten unsuccessful attacks since then.

This report of pirate activity  for the week of 29 September looks at the last week in more detail. There were six attacks in the Somali area reported, but no vessels were seized, mostly thanks to armed security teams. In another post, looking at substantially the same period, Eaglespeak looks at pirate tactics, specifically where they are positioning their assets.

In the ICS press release, Mr. Polemis states,

“I do wish to stress that, despite acknowledging their use, private armed guards do not represent a long term solution. Rather, their use actually signifies a failure on the part of the international community – and those governments with significant military forces – to ensure the security of maritime trade on which the whole world depends.”

When a company in the US puts a fence around its property, installs a security system, and hires security guards, it does not signify a failure of the police departments It is a cost of doing business. Would be nice if human nature were different, but cutting corners and leaving your crews vulnerable to save a few bucks has consequences. If there is callousness here, it might be well for ship owners to look in the mirror.



5 thoughts on “Piracy Update–8 October 2011

  1. Mr. Polemis apparently believes that we should put all the navies of the world in the HOA to stop piracy, which is of course an absurd idea. To be kind, I’ll just note that Mr. Polemis apparently issued that press release while his head was in a very dark and personal space. Private security guards might not be a long term solution, but they are the most effective short term solution we have at our disposal.

    For the ICS – or any other shipping organization – to point the finger of blame at others without accepting the share of blame that shippers should acknowledge is hypocrisy at its finest.

  2. Whatever happened to the 1000-Ship Fleet concept of international cooperation? One of the goals was to hamper piracy.

    • To some extent it is working. Several Navies all working together voluntarily. Of course there are only about 25 ships instead of a 1000. Maybe 100 ships if you count down time, transit and training.

    • The 1000-ship Navy was an excellent example of someone coming up with a catchy sound bite and getting the President to endorse it before really thinking through the problem. But I digress.

      Unless the navies of the world want to send enough ships to give every merchant vessel a naval escort through the HOA, pirates will eventually get an unarmed vessel. That is why armed security on board a merchant vessel is a much more practical idea.

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