The sharp reduction in pirate activity off the Somali coast since 2010 has cut the annual cost (for anti-piracy measures) to shipping companies in half (to about $3 billion). That is a huge relief to the shipping companies, the sailors on those ships and the people of East Africa who saw imports get a bit more expensive to pay for the increased security costs.
This is all a big change from just a few years ago. In 2010 pirate activity had reached levels of activity not seen in over a century. But over the next three years the problem was fixed. By 2013 attacks on ships by Somali pirates had declined 95 percent from the 2010 peak and the activity is going lower in 2014. It’s been over two years since the Somali pirates captured a large commercial ship, and even smaller fishing ships and dhows (small local cargo ships of traditional construction) are harder for them to grab. There are still at least fifty sailors held captive by the pirates, most for over three years because there is no one willing to pay a ransom.
The rapid collapse of the Somali pirates since 2010 was no accident. It was all a matter of organization, international cooperation and innovation. It all began back in 2009 when 80 seafaring nations formed (with the help of a UN resolution) the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. The most visible aspect of the Contact Group was the organization of an anti-piracy patrol off the Somali coast. This came to consist of over two dozen warships and several dozen manned and unmanned aircraft, as well as support from space satellites and major intelligence and police agencies.
Back in 2010 the Somali pirates got most of the publicity but they only carried out 44 percent of the attacks. What was newsworthy was that the Somalis accounted for 90 percent of the hijackings, and some 80 percent of the piracy was in and around the Indian Ocean. Some 44 percent of all attacks involved the pirates boarding the ships, while during 18 percent of attacks the pirates just fired on ships, without getting aboard. There are still pirates out there, but there are more into robbery than kidnapping.
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