Somali Pirate Hijackings Down, Business Model Still Intact – NATO

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VENTURES AFRICA – International naval forces must continue actions in the waters near Somalia if the hijacking of merchant ships is to be prevented going forward, says NATO, as pirates remain committed to the “business model”.

Despite the fact that attempts made by Somali pirates on merchant ships have significantly fallen over the past year in response to increased naval presence and increased security measures implemented in the region, NATO officials have warned that the international community must not relax measures, as this may allow a recurrence of piracy.

“I am convinced, if navy ships would disappear, the piracy model would still be intact,” said Dutch Commodore Ben Bekkering, former leader of NATO’s Ocean Shield anti-piracy programme.

“Yes, they don’t deploy that much to sea but the leadership of the piracy is still there and if they hold their breath for a little while and nations (take) their navy ships back, I am pretty sure that the business model is still intact,” he went on.

In October the International Maritime Bureau released a report detailing the trends in piracy around Africa. According to the report, in the first nine months of 2012, only 70 attempts were made by Somali pirates as compared to 199 attacks in the corresponding period of 2011 – displaying the lowest level of attacks since 2009.

According to NATO, in the first 11 months of 2012 there were only seven hijackings of merchant ships in Somali waters, while in the last six months of the year there have been no successful attacks on merchant ships.

Actions by Somali pirates are perpetuated by the significant financial gains gleaned by the pirates, particularly through attacks on merchant ships. The One Earth Future Foundation estimates that in 2011, Somali pirates secured $160 million, while the attacks cost global economies in the region of $7 billion.

As such, NATO officials urge that international forces do not loosen their crack-down efforts in the hope of quelling the attraction of attacks to the pirate groups.