Cost of Somali piracy drops by half

By Laura Stackhouse

New report from Oceans Beyond Piracy has announced that the cost of pirate attacks and incidents fell nearly 50 percent to $3.2 billion in 2013

Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) has released a new report that states that the cost of Somali piracy has fallen by nearly 50 percent in 2013.

Titled “The State of Maritime Piracy 2013”, the fourth installment of its annual report detailing the economic and human costs of African maritime piracy has discovered that attacks by pirates in the region have become increasingly rare, with the overall economic costs down to between $3 billion and $3.2 billion a year. A drop from the $5.7 to $6.1 billion recorded back in 2012.

Despite the drop, the organisation has warned that the human cost of piracy in both Somalia and West Africa on the whole remains highly significant. At least 50 hostages still remain in captivity, held in terrible conditions for an average of nearly three years.

“The efforts of the international community and the shipping industry have considerably reduced the threat of Somali piracy,” said Jens Madsen, one of the report’s authors. “But we have yet to achieve the goal of ‘Zero/Zero’ – zero vessels captured and zero hostages held.”

​The new report also makes an effort to show the economic cost of maritime piracy in the region of West Africa, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea, which Oceans Beyond Piracy says is still dangerous due to a combination of a lack of open reporting and coordinated effort among stakeholders.

“Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is fundamentally different to that taking place in the Indian Ocean,” says Mr. Madsen. “We observe not only a high degree of violence in the attacks in this region, but also the lack of a mutually trusted reporting architecture and the constantly evolving tactics of West African piracy makes it extremely difficult to isolate it from other elements of organized maritime crime.”

While the report notes that the combined economic costs of suppressing Somali piracy are down, there has only been a slight increase in investment in long-term solutions ashore. Research also shows that the shipping industry increasingly relies on individualised risk mitigation, observed in the decreased use of some of the more expensive anti-piracy measures such as increased speed and re-routing. Shippers are also turning to smaller and less expensive teams of armed guards as the perceived risk of piracy is declining.

“While I am encouraged that more money is being spent on longer-term solutions ashore, these still only represent the equivalent of 11⁄2 percent of the total annual cost of the piracy,” says Marcel Arsenault, Chairman of One Earth Future Foundation. “Until we have more economic opportunity and better governance ashore, we risk piracy returning to previous levels as soon as the navies and guards have gone home.”

Follow along as we tweet live from the “State of Maritime Piracy” Launch Event from 9am (BST) on Thursday 8 May #obppiracy 

The event will include a panel discussion of counter-piracy experts. Moderated by OBP Senior Fellow, Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent. The panel will include Jens Vestergaard Madsen of OBP, Simon Church of the Maritime Security Centre, Horn of Africa, and Giles Noakes and Peter Sand of the international shipping association, BIMCO.

To get an idea of the ever-changing face of piracy in Somalia before the event, check out our latest analysis feature, which includes comments from Jens Vestergaard Madsen and Giles Noakes.



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