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December 2012

News Letter - 31st December 2012

Editors Note:

This newsletter was written about a week ago but with the festive season being upon us it has taken somewhat longer than normal to publish for which we apologise. However we’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of our stakeholders, partners, clients & readers a very Merry Christmas and a very prosperous and successful 2013. 

PIRACY OFF SOMALIA & WEST AFRICA – UPDATE END OF 2012

Over the last few years this Newsletter has carried a number of articles on piracy and we have always stated our clear opinion of pursuing these criminals vigorously by all means possible until this scourge is eliminated. We make no apology for the following update on this issue:

The good news is that Somali piracy has fallen to a three-year low and is down by around 65% compared to 2011. From July to September 2012 only one ship reported an attempted attack by Somali pirates, as opposed to 36 incidents in the same three months last year!

It is claimed that the reasons for this dramatic fall are:

Better and more coordinated action by international navies

The enlistment of armed security guards by shipping companies

The beginnings of a semblance of law and order in Somalia

Operation of a convoy system

Increased ship speeds

It is good to hear the incident rate of hijackings and attempted hijackings are down, but there can be no room for complacency – the waters of the Indian Ocean are still extremely high-risk so the above combination of actions needs be continued and increased. In order to rid the area of the scourge of piracy all the above must be pursued far more vigorously and with more determination from all parties.

We see the following actions as the key to elimination of piracy in the area:

1. A good standard of governance being installed in Somalia. This could be a very long time in coming, if it ever does happen. Not only would such governance have to stop piracy but it would have to bring all persons involved in piracy to justice, including the death sentence for those directly involved in the acts of piracy and bold sentencing for all those ‘feeding off’ the ill gotten gains of piracy’s. This is a tall order and something which would bring howls of protest from human rights groups and ‘do gooders’ – such people always forget or ignore the deaths and suffering of innocent sea-farers at the hands of these criminals and end up attempting to protect pirates ‘rights’. People who indulge in piracy have or should have no rights!

2. An increased naval presence in the area right up to the Somali shore line (at least until Somali can handle the in-shore policing themselves?) Again this is unlikely as international governments do not give this problem the level of action necessary to eliminate it. Again they seem more concerned with human rights and completing paper work correctly than ridding the area of this scourge.

3. The use of armed guards on vessels has increased greatly over the past two years and is probably the single biggest factor in the dramatic drop in the incidence of piracy in the Somali basin of the Indian Ocean. No vessel with an armed guard onboard has been seriously challenged by pirates. It has been effective (at a high cost to the ship owner) and continues to be effective in driving down the incidence but without 1 & 2 above it in itself cannot eliminate the problem.

It is estimated that Somali piracy cost the world economy approximately $7 billion in 2011 – down from a $12 billion estimate for 2010 with a further significant drop in 2012. Last year Somali piracy in the busy shipping lanes of the Gulf of Aden and the north-western Indian Ocean netted $160m.

The above mentioned gains against piracy are all reversible because the main conditions on the land such as: poverty, insecurity, the distribution of firearms and a lack of institutional development, remain largely unchanged. If security measures are rescinded or not pursued as vigorously as possible a resurgence of piracy in the area would be very likely.

Pirates off Somalia are still holding 11 vessels for ransom with 167 crew members as hostages on board. Twenty-one more kidnapped crew members are being held on land.

PIRACY IN WEST AFRICA

Meanwhile piracy is on the increase in West Africa. Between January and September 2012 there were 34 incidents: a rise from 30 in the same period last year. The acts of piracy in West Africa tend to be more of the robbery with violence type. The majority of this activity is taking place on vessels at anchor and occasionally alongside rather than on vessels under-way. The present counteractions are to drift out at sea a significant distance from land rather than anchor inshore. Armed guards onboard are being considered and will probably be implemented once the logistical problems are sorted out – these problems are somewhat different to those which had to be overcome in the Indian Ocean area.

CONCLUSION

While there has been a positive trend in 2012 in reducing the incidence of piracy in the Indian Ocean area it has not been eliminated – and the latter must be the aim. While Ship-Owners themselves have been the greatest contributors to this downturn they cannot eliminate it without the world’s navies becoming more active in their pursuit of the perpetrators of these criminal activities and dealing with them in an effective matter. This sort of vigorous action would send a clear signal to other would-be pirates not to attempt such and would make the world a better place to live in.

Keep in mind the hundreds of innocent seafarers who are incarcerated by pirates, some for many months who will not be home for Christmas with some not having seen home since prior the previous Christmas!

IAN HALL