Friday, June 3, 2016

Shipping Lines Warned That Piracy Remains a Threat in the Indian Ocean

As Military Land Actions Escalate in Somalia the Risk of Hijack Still Concerns
Shipping News Feature
INDIAN OCEAN – Six months since the High Risk Area (HRA) in the Indian Ocean was reduced in size, international maritime security company, Maritime Asset Security and Training (MAST), has said that the security situation in the Western Indian Ocean may be at a tipping point. A culmination of factors, merchant vessels sailing closer to the Somali coast, a reduced naval presence and fewer security teams aboard the freighters, has resulted in elevated levels of pirate activity in recent months, with some vessels coming under fire in the Gulf of Aden.

MAST also expresses concern that there is evidence of reduced application of Best Management Practice (BMP) measures by vessels and shipping companies, adding that there are worries within the security sector that some incidents are not being reported, and those that are lack detail and therefore make a limited contribution to ongoing efforts to tackle piracy. Rigorous application of BMPs was one of the major factors in cutting levels of piracy off the Somali coast and beyond so drastically.

Even as international land forces assemble to concentrate more efforts on removing al Shabaab fighters from strongholds around the country, something we have witnessed for some years, EUNAVFOR and other bodies including the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) continue to warn ocean carriers that Somali piracy is supressed and not eradicated, and that those on-board need to remain vigilant. Gerry Northwood, COO at MAST and former Royal Navy Counter Piracy Commander, said:

"We know that the pirate networks in Somalia retain the ability and intent to hijack vessels. Vessels sailing without adequate security are therefore inadvertently increasing the opportunities for the Somalis to conduct a successful pirate attack.

"Additionally recent events suggest the Somali pirates are once again using the area around Al Mukallah as a forward operating base. In understanding the dynamics of criminality in the region it is important to appreciate that Yemen and Somalia are closely related areas of instability and poor governance. They are in effect a single economy for piracy and other criminality in which the Gulf of Aden is as much an enabler, as it is barrier, between the two states.

"Regrettably, the governance of the coastal regions of Somalia, mainly Puntland and Galmudgud, have not changed significantly in the past three or four years. They remain politically autonomous and are ultimately permissive to kidnap and ransom activity. Yet, despite the increasingly uncertain environment in both Somalia and Yemen, we are seeing shipping companies concluding that the situation in the Gulf of Aden is safe because there have been no successful attacks since 2012. Sadly it will take a hijacking to make some people realise this is not the case."

Photo: ‘A pirate’s life for me’, and not always such a comfortable one as this crew of would be hijackers demonstrate having seen their small skiff roll over in high winds. (Courtesy of the Spanish Ministry of Defence).