The increasingly problematic issue of piracy reporting has reared its head recently. Some believe that far from Somali pirates being deterred by navies and armed guards, they are simply being ignored by those who gather data and create piracy reports. Experts claim a lack of accurate reporting is making it impossible to truly gauge the level of risk in the ‚ÄúHigh Risk Area‚Äù.
While the published figures showing a reduction in Somali piracy, there are concerns that these are potentially masking the true numbers, as the curse of ‚Äúunder reported‚Äù pirate attacks takes hold.¬† As such, there are calls for an urgent shake up in the way that reports are generated, captured and promulgated, with some appealing for a, ‚Äúsingle non-political independent reporting depository‚Äù.
While the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is supposedly performing just such a role, it seems there are increasing frustrations concerning the organisation and what one observer recently stated as a, ‚Äúfailure to report incidents‚Äù and a lack of information on risk evaluation and mitigation.
One only has to look at the reporting bodies in existence, and perhaps a ‚Äútoo many cooks‚Äù problem is taking hold. There is the UK Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) and NATO, the IMB, the US Office of Naval Intelligence and the IMO ‚Äì all are collecting data, but perhaps this is detrimental to the whole process.
So why is reporting becoming such a toxic issue? According to some experts there are two immediate issues: One is the fact that shipowners do not want to report incidents, and so they quell reports in order to make life simple, and to perhaps influence insurers. Another issue is the complication of verifying incidents as piracy incidents.
Defining a pirate attack is one thing, but actually recognising one is something else altogether. Since the advent of armed guards on ships, pirates are a little more restrained. Guards frequently report ‚Äúprobing incidents‚Äù in which potential pirates maintain their cover by not overtly attacking. Increasingly vessels in the High Risk Area are subjected to incidents that appear to be co-ordinated small boat piracy approaches but, because they choose not to ultimately attack, they are not necessarily classified as piracy or a suspicious approach.
So we are left with the oldest joke in the book¬† ‚Äì ‚ÄúWhen does a fisherman become a pirate? When the IMB says they Arrr.