DAVID CONNERY AND ROB MCLAUGHLIN
WHILE the world’s been focused on the deteriorating security situation in and around Iraq over the past year, less attention been given to an improving situation in the waters adjacent to this war-torn region.
Last year no vessels were captured by pirates in the waters off Somalia, according to the International Maritime Organisation.
This caps off a trend that’s been emerging since 2011, and has been largely credited to better security precautions by ships and a strong international naval presence.
But those responsible for the effort are not claiming victory: they use descriptions like “suppressed” and warn that the trend is “easily reversed”.
That’s because governments supporting the anti-piracy effort might not see it as a high priority if piracy’s mistakenly described as “defeated”.
At the same time as pirate activity has been diminishing, we’ve seen another, similarly positive, trend: rising numbers of drug seizures in these waters by Western warships — primarily Canadian, Australian and British.
Since 2012, vessels belonging to the Combined Maritime Force have seized increasingly large volumes of Africa-bound heroin and cannabis. The overall catch is small compared to the volume of drugs being produced in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the 4600 tonnes of heroin seized on the Indian Ocean last year is less than 1 per cent of Afghan production.
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