If you were to visualize and try to reply in one word the condition and the situation of piracy in the various areas around the world affected by maritime crime and trying to visualize a narrow, what would you do?
Let's look in some details. More than a year has passed since the last successful hijack of a merchant vessel from a Somali hijacker. Most of you will know that it was a vessel of Greek interest in May 2012 but since then no other merchant vessel has been hijacked. Pirates have been attacking vessels passing the whole of Africa since at least 2005, when they received the $315.000 ransom for MV Feisty Gas. But since that successful hijack in May 2012, no more hijacks have happened. Why are the pirates at bay?
Indeed, pirate attacks have been on a stated decline. Does this mean that pirates are no longer active in the Indian Ocean? Let's take a look at some statistics:
These were published statistics from the Nato Shipping Center and as you will see year over year there is an activity.
From a different perspective (same source of Statistics - Nato Shipping Center) you will see the spread of those attacks in the various geographical areas in the Indian Ocean. In each of these areas you will notice the same decline.
Below we see the Post South West monsoon season of 2012. Everyone was expecting after the monsoon season for the attacks to rise. But, no. What happened there? Did the pirates decide to abandon hijacking ships and go back fishing?
We have been discussing that there are no attacks. However, these are some reported incidents from the last week of September (one-week statistics).
So, from one hand we have a significant drop with just a handful of incidents throughout the year and on the other hand we have 6 approaches within a single week. Where do we attribute that? Basically, switching to the Post South West monsoon of 2012, as descended, something happened. And what happened was that the way that the attacks and the incidents were reported by authorities changed. So, something would not be classified as suspicious or as attack unless a vessel was fired-upon. They try to mitigate their own risk. From that aspect you've seen a significant drop in reported attacks and not actual presence of pirates in the Indian Ocean.
As concerns the 6 incidents within one week, if you ask your security provider on whether his teams see skiffs in the area, the answer will always be yes. And most PMSCs, with a significant volume, will tell you that their teams see skiffs (pirate skiffs not fishermen). They see pirates, they report to authorities, they provide proof of pirates and nothing is being reported. All this serious underreporting is an issue that's been called upon by various entities, even the IMB considers that the actual statistics are low compared to the actual situation. The current hiatus in confirmed pirate activity is highly unusual and is more reminiscent of activity levels during the monsoon season. Even during this seasonal weather feature, activity would generally continue in shelter areas, like the Gulf of Aden.
As concerns India, following the underreporting of the attacks and the actual attacks, there have been some important developments. India is pushing for the defined high-risk area to shrink. Why do they do that? As reported by various sources, India has taken up a new battle against global insurance firms to get a high-risk area to prevent major shipping traffic from approaching the Indian coast. You are all very well familiar that there is congestion, lot of fishing activity in the area, lot of accidents taking place, because commercial vessels are trying to avoid the high-risk area either not to place armed guards onboard either as a concept of company policy. Another issue that this is taking place is the Enrica Lexie. The Italians had even argued that the incident took place within the high-risk area to explain the skittishness of the marines who mistook the fishermen for pirates (what training they had prior going to protect a vessel in the high-risk area?). In any case, according to Indian official, there had been a forward movement in the meeting in last May and another meeting later this year will be for the first time considering threat assessments by naval forces.
The effect, though, of the underreported attacks comes from this: more than 60% of vessels sailing in the high-risk area carry armed guards (PCASP). This, along with the aggressiveness of navies, has reduced the attacks and this is what gives to Indian authorities the backing to ask what they ask.
How about the Gulf of Guinea? There are changes. There is the consensus that there has been an increase in attacks. Other sources say that the actual attacks are the same. We just shifted our attention from the Indian Ocean to the Gulf of Guinea. Certainly, though, there is a problem there and the situation is alarming.
Above article is an edited version of Panos G.Moraitis 's presentation during 2013 SAFETY4SEA Athens Forum
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