Piracy Off The Coast of Africa: Not Gone, But Forgotten

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Written by Staff

From SouthChinaMorningPost. Story by Jing Yang.

The problem of Somali pirates may have eased but growing attacks in West Africa and Southeast Asia are fueling fresh worries for international trade, a new report has found.

The annual report by Oceans Beyond Piracy, an independent, non-profit organisation based in the U.S., said losses caused by Somali pirates in the Western Indian Ocean have come down in the past two years following intensified efforts such as joint military patrols and the use of armed guards.

In 2014, the cost incurred as a result of pirate attacks amounted to US$2.2 billion to US$2.3 billion, compared with the peak of US$7 billion in 2010, when such costs were first assessed.

Human costs, measured by seafarers injured, killed or taken hostage, also continued to decline steadily to 205 people in 2014, compared with 606 in 2013 and 6,707 in 2010.

More than half, or 56 percent, of the costs went into vessel protection measures, including deploying private armed guards on board, increasing sailing speed and rerouting to escape potential attacks, while US$805 million, or 36 percent, were government and civil-society costs, such as naval patrolling and ransom payments. The remaining US$175 million, or 8 percent of the total costs, went into insurance coverage and hazard pay – the additional salary for seafarers transiting dangerous areas.

But even as raids by Somali pirates have fallen off, a surge in cargo theft and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea and Southeast Asia over the past year is posing a serious threat to seaborne trade.

At least 5,000 people were subject to physical or psychological attacks in 2014, 476 held in captivity for some time and seven killed. In Southeast Asia, where incidents of piracy and armed robbery surged to a five-year high of 183 last year, 3,600 seafarers were subject to attacks.

“Some of these hostages have been held and tortured for over four years. This is an unacceptable level of violence that would not be tolerated if land or air routes were under similar threat – and it must not be tolerated at sea,” the report said.

The high human costs in the region were related to a staggering 90 percent success rate in pirates’ attempt to board vessels.

The report did not calculate economic costs in Southeast Asia, which a third of the world’s oil tankers pass through to feed energy-hungry economies such as China and Japan.

In the Gulf of Guinea, US$983 million was spent in antipiracy measures, of which 47 percent was borne by the shipping industry. The report said 1,035 seafarers were exposed to attacks, while adding that incidents in the region tended to be underreported.

Read more at SouthChinaMorningPost.