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Concerted efforts needed to combat Piracy

Concerted efforts needed to combat Piracy

The Horn of Africa is often referred to as a conflict region, not so much because the conflicts are of great magnitude but rather because they get a disproportionate amount of international publicity. The major security problem in the region, of course, still remains Somalia where there are cross cutting problems of terrorism, internal conflict, piracy, organized crime and a war economy. Among these it is piracy that now attracts the most attention across the world, with any number of international conferences to discuss this global challenge. Piracy in Somalia largely emanates from the regions of Puntland and Galmudug, the epicenters for planning, recruiting and the supplying of piracy activities. It is also off their coasts that hijacked ships and the so-called motherships are usually anchored. Although there have been less successful pirate attacks this year, piracy remains a major international crime threatening security in the region and more widely. Indeed, the pirates are constantly changing their tactics and methods of operation in response to the efforts of the International Community to deal with their menace.   

The increased piracy activity over the last few years has produced great human costs for those who have been, and still are, held hostages, and their relatives. It also affects those who work on the ships passing through the waters off the shores of Somalia and more recently well into the Indian Ocean as far south as Madagascar. The ships passing through this area provide one of the main links between Asia and Europe and it is one of the main arteries of international trade as well as an important element in the provision of emergency aid to the drought affected areas of Eastern Africa. The activities of the pirates have, inevitably, had a significantly negative impact on global commercial shipping and trade in recent years. This has been reflected internationally and in a number of countries in Africa that have been experiencing declining trade and growing commodity prices.

In fact, the economic losses arising from piracy have been colossal. According to International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reports in 2010 over 1,016 crew members from dozens of hijacked vessels were taken hostage by Somali pirates. Most were released following ransom negotiations, but at least eight were killed and thirteen injured.  There were at least 219 attacks in the region that year and 49 successful hijackings. In the first three months of 2011, IMB data indicated that almost 100 vessels in the region reported being attacked, though only 15 were successfully highjacked and approximately 300 hostages taken. Those attacks represented a substantial increase over the same period in 2009, when no more than 35 vessels had been attacked in the waters off Somalia. At least seven hostages were killed in the first three months of 2011 including four Americans. As of April 2011, Somali pirates were holding over 26 ships and 530 crew hostage in search of ransoms. Some reports estimated that the overall cost of Somali piracy was between $7 and $12 billion US dollars in 2010 and approximately $6.6 to $6.9 billion US dollars in 2011. In 2011 overall, Somali pirates attacked 237 ships, and successfully hijacked 31, 28 of them in the first half of the year and only three in the second half with increased international naval activity going on. There were only five successful highjackings in the first six months of 2012. The hallmark of all these activities has been hostage-taking for ransom, and the IMB reports that in 2010 the number of hostages was the most taken at sea since records began, and more than 85% of those were seized by Somali pirates. Reports suggest that 31 ransoms were paid in 2011 with the amount paid coming to a total of US$159.62 million, with the average being US$4.97 million.

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