As of the end of this month, Somali pirates have hijacked and captured 11 foreign vessels for ransom, and currently hold 167 crew members as hostages. These statistics come even amidst a significant drop in pirate attacks, as the number falls to its lowest since 2009. But clearly, the problem is not yet completely solved.
A recent report from the International Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the International Maritime Bureau, estimated that 21 of the hostages are being held captive on land, while 20 of them have been held for over two and a half years.
Authorities are thankful that the number of attacks is finally falling, but caution ships and other security forces to remain vigilant– clearly the problem is far from completely over. Perhaps due to their lowering rate of success, Somali pirates have raised their aggression in recent months.
So far in 2012, there have only been 70 Somali pirate attacks, compared to 199 in the same period of 2011. Perhaps because there are not as many successful hijackings as there used to be, pirates feel more pressure to hold on to their captives and squeeze as much money as possible from them.
The Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden see huge amounts of global trade, being one of the busiest shipping corridors in the world. A large percentage of the world’s oil travels from east to west and vice versa via this body of water.
The Somali pirates have evolved to counter the increased awareness of their presence. They now employ increasingly complex tactics and are very well armed– many carry assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
But international naval task-forces in the waters they have infested have limited their ability to operate freely. Additionally, shipping companies employ armed guards far more commonly. This is also seen as a major deterrent and reason for the drop in attacks. However, piracy is the symptom of a lawless country and population of people with no other option, so as long as Somalia remains unstable, the threat of piracy will remain.
Pirates have already taken nearly 450 crew members hostage this year, and have killed six of them. Around 125 ships were boarded by pirates, and 24 of those were hijacked. An additional 58 attempted hijackings were reported, and undoubtedly there were many incidents which went unreported. Clearly, the problem is far from over.