A recent report release by the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Agency, in conjunction with AT Kearney, attempts to forecast the future of global piracy. Worldwide shipping faces an elevated threat from piracy, which has been plaguing the water off of east Africa for the past several years.
As a huge percentage of global trade passes from east to west and vice-versa through this vital waterway, shipping companies are facing a damaging rise in cost to protect their cargo. At the present, the report advises companies to plan ahead– inform crews of anti-piracy best-practices, use only safe route, and hire armed guards to have on board.
But this, combined with rising insurance costs, cannot go on for so long. The report outlines three possible scenarios: a new wave of piracy, containment and the finding of a permanent solution.
In the first scenario, a new wave of piracy is caused by a further declining situation in Somalia. If the instability of the country increases or even remains at its current level, more Somalis will be driven to piracy, because they have no other options for income. Such a scenario would see piracy double over the next ten years, as current pirates continue to recruit new members and organizations develop more operational capabilities. This would likely only occur if international fleets lost their taste for the Indian Ocean, and the current task-force was greatly reduced in number.
The second scenario is somewhat of a middle ground. In the containment scenario, that status quo is mostly held over the next decade. Continuing international naval operations would combat the current rates of piracy and potentially slash them by 30-50%. This would primarily be achieved through an escalation or continuance of counter-piracy missions. The kill or capture or pirates and the detention of their vessels would “trim the hedge”, so to speak, and blunt any organizational growth that would otherwise occur.
Unfortunately, as international navies become more aggressive, the pirates will likely respond in kind. In this escalation of conflict, the pirates would ultimately lose, but could bring about much collateral damage, loss of life and harm to the shipping industry in the process of the conflict.
The final scenario, which suggests the path for a more permanent solution, is a multi-faceted approach. The international fleet would play a large role in continuing to secure the waters and conduct counter-piracy missions, but to truly eradicate the problem, someone needs to tackle nation-building in the mainland of Somalia.
The key turning point in this scenario would be the stabilization of the political situation in the country. If this happens, the Somali government can organize well enough to combat pirate networks on the mainland, hampering their organizational capacity. But most importantly, this would allow for an economic recovery that would stop driving so many Somalis to piracy as a last (or first) alternative to poverty.