The year 2012 saw a sharp drop in sea piracy with a 32.3 per cent dip globally from the year before, and a 70 per cent dip in attempted attacks by Somali pirates compared to the year before, according to maritime monitoring agencies.
According to International Maritime Bureau (IMB), sea piracy plunged to its lowest level in five years in 2012. A total of 297 attacks were recorded worldwide, down sharply from 439 in 2011.
Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), a project of the Broomfield, Colorado-based One Earth Future Foundation, reported 237 attacks in 2011 by Somali pirates alone and only 75 in 2012.
The drop in Somali piracy has been largely attributed to more ships in the region – 50 per cent in 2012 (30 per cent in 2011) – using armed guards, Jon Bellish, project officer, Economic Cost of Piracy and Legal Issues (ECoP) for OBP, told Muscat Daily.
‚ÄúA final factor leading to the drop in Somali piracy in 2012 was the increased presence of armed guards,‚Äù he added. However, he said, the spending on counter-piracy measures against Somali pirates has almost tripled to US$1.53bn in 2012 from approximately US$500mn in 2011.
While the overall cost of combating piracy internationally fell from around US$7bn in 2011 to around US$6bn in 2012 (down 14 per cent), the per incident calculated cost has risen ‘dramatically’, Bellish said. This was because the number of attacks fell by a much higher rate, he added.
‚ÄúSo, US$7bn divided by 237 attacks [by Somali pirates] takes the per attack cost to US$29.5mn. The figure for 2012 was US$80mn per attack,‚Äù Bellish said, explaining the rise in per incident cost.
OBP estimates that in 2012, US$32mn was paid in ransom to Somali pirates, a decline of about 80 per cent from US$160mn in 2011. ‚ÄúThe reduction in ransom is due to the lower number of vessels captured and released in 2012.‚Äù
According to IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre, the number of people taken hostage onboard globally fell to 585 from 802 in 2011, while a further 26 were kidnapped for ransom in Nigeria, six crew members were killed and 32 were injured or assaulted.
‚ÄúIMB‚Äôs piracy figures show a welcome reduction in hijackings and attacks to ships. But crews must remain vigilant, particularly in the highly dangerous waters off East and West Africa,‚Äù said Capt Pottengal Mukundan, director of IMB, which has tracked piracy worldwide since 1991.
In Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, just 75 ships were attacked in 2012 compared to 237 in 2011, which represents a 68 per cent decrease. ‚ÄúThis accounts for 25 per cent of incidents worldwide, and the number of Somali hijackings halved from 28 in 2011 to 14 last year,‚Äù Capt Mukundan said.
According to Glen Forbes, founder of the maritime information sharing platform, Oceanuslive.org, ‚ÄúThe presence of armed guards on ships has had a great impact. It must be said that the adverse weather during the monsoon periods in 2012 was decidedly a factor which further denied pirates the previous freedom of movement.‚Äù
He added that the coalition and independent naval presence, combined with the use of patrol aircraft for early warning have additionally lessened pirates‚Äô ability to operate by working closer to the Somali coast.
A new strategy has also been supplanted that involves internationally-assisted domestic anti-piracy courts in Somalia, Seychelles, Kenya, Mauritius and Tanzania.
International assistance comes from the United Nations and its member states, which support various elements of domestic prosecutions from training personnel to constructing prisons, with local officials conducting the actual judicial processes.
In addition to the funds contributed directly by governments and industry, several counter-piracy organisations devote some or all of their budgets to the UN-created Trust Fund to support initiatives by states to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia. From among GCC countries, Qatar has donated US$2.5mn and UAE has contributed US$1mn.