While Somali pirate attacks have decreased in recent months, many from within the international coalition in place to secure the Indian Ocean warn that the threat is not totally over.
Recently, the Operation Commander of the European Union Naval Force, Rear Admiral Bob Tarrant, spoke about the continuing threat. He warned that Somali pirates are still attempting to hijack ships, and although they will be deterred from well-secured vessels, they are seeking out low-hanging fruit.
“I am very concerned that seafarers and nations will lower their guard and support for counter piracy operations in the belief that the piracy threat is over. It is not; it is merely contained. We should remember that at its height in January 2011, 32 ships were pirated by Somali pirates and 736 hostages were held. It is crucial that we remain vigilant or the number of attacks will once again rise.”
This logical warning predicts what could be a bad cycle of relaxing security measures that trigger a re-emergence of piracy. Pirates are still being rounded up off the coast of Somalia. Recently the ESPS Rayo of Spain, part of the EU NAVOR Operation Atalanta, found a group of six men believed to be pirates.
The ship spotted a small skiff way off the coast, and found no evidence of any kind of legal activity, like fishing or trade, aboard the vessel. The men on board could offer no explanation as to why they had sailed so far out to sea in such a small boat. The investigators did find some equipment commonly associated with piracy, but it was not enough to legally detain the men.
Authorities assured that when a group of suspected pirates is found, every effort is made to move forward with a prosecution, but the international coalition must still operate within the established legal framework for prosecuting pirates.
Although the numbers are nowhere near the epidemic that was occurring just a few years ago, they do still happen. Since May of last year, nine ships have been attacked, and two are still being held captive. There are 54 hostages involved in those situations. Pirates become increasingly desperate to extract as much money as they can from their declining number of hostages, and the danger for the human captives rises as threats to their lives grow more serious.