Oceans Beyond Piracy Latest Report
Written by Steven Jones
Over the past few years one of the most authoritative and influential reports on maritime piracy has come from the organisation Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP). They have tapped into financial data, reports, evidence and research, and in doing so have opened the world of maritime crime as wide as it can get.
In their first reports, the organisation focused on the financial and human costs of piracy off Somalia and in the Indian Ocean, but as the problems have emerged elsewhere and as the data sets have grown, so too have the level of detail and depth of exploration.
In this, their fifth State of Maritime Piracy Report, OBP has analysed the impacts of piracy during 2014 in three key pirate areas: the Western Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Guinea and, for the first time, in Southeast Asia.
While there are some rays of optimism as Indian Ocean attacks have fallen, overall the report makes concerning reading. In the Western Indian Ocean, OBP found that the observed commitment of naval assets and use of vessel protection measures such as increased speed and rerouting by merchant vessels continued to decrease. This resulted in the total economic cost of piracy dropping by 28% in 2014.
The cost savings may have increased, but at what level of increased risk? Alarmingly, the perceived reduction in the piracy threat has also resulted in more foreign fishing vessels returning to areas close to the coast of Somalia. The report states that the provocation of fishing close to the Somali coast is currently similar to those that triggered piracy in the first place.
Alas, the situation ashore in Somali has not truly been addressed – and while some pirates have been arrested and the money-men may have scattered, there are still many poor and desperate people. These are people with so few options that they could be compelled to take to the seas once more and turn to piracy.
The tinder remains in place and all it will take is a spark to reignite the problem. For that reason the creeping complacency is of major concern – and needs to be held at bay.
In recent times, the Gulf of Guinea has usurped the Indian Ocean as the hottest piracy area. However, even as the figures have seemingly risen, the region faces a variety of challenges related to chronic under-reporting of incidents and an absence of prosecutions.
The report observed that up to 70% of piracy-related incidents in the Gulf of Guinea are never reported, so there is currently a complete lack of understanding of the problem. This makes it difficult to assess the extent of the threats seafarers face in this region. It also means it is almost impossible to deliver the right and appropriate levels of response.
The final area to be explored by the OBP’s analysis was Southeast Asia – an area that has seen a clear and re-emerging threat to seafarers. The study found that more than 90% of the reported attacks resulted in pirates successfully boarding target vessels, and 800 seafarers were involved in incidents in South East Asia where violence or the threat of violence was specifically documented.
In keeping with the OBP focus on the human element, the report stresses the point that seafarers across the globe are the primary victims of piracy and armed robbery at sea. A chilling example of this are the twenty-six high-risk hostages from the Naham 3 who remain in pirate captivity in Somalia today, more than three years after the initial hijacking of their ship.
According to Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent, who chaired the launch of the report,
“The evidence shows that piracy continues to be a world-wide threat to seafarers. There are specific contexts that distinguish each region, but there is a common lesson in the need to address piracy through cooperation, vigilance, and sustained effort by all actors across the maritime sector.”
There is clearly much still to be done if the 2015 report is not to contain the same damning, terrifying and horrendous levels of maritime crime.