As Somali pirates adapt to efforts to stop them,
shippers devise guidelines and defenses of their own
By EDWARD LUNDQUIST, Special Correspondent
Cat and Mouse
the same period of any previous
year,” according to Capt. Pottengal
Mukundan, director of the London-based International Maritime
Bureau (IMB) of the International
Chamber of Commerce. IMB’s
Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) in
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has monitored piracy worldwide since 1991.
Compared to a year ago, Somali
pirates are initiating more attacks,
but having less success in actually
hijacking vessels. An Oct. 18 IMB
report noted that during the first
nine months of 2011, Somali
pirates attacked 199 ships, up from
Hijackings have been successful in just 12 percent
of attempts this year, down from 28 percent in 2010,
the report noted.
As of Nov. 7, Somali pirates still held 11 vessels and
194 hostages, according to IMB statistics. For the year,
450 people have been held as hostages. Fifteen people
also have been killed during piracy incidents this year.
The International Maritime Organization, a
London-based agency of the U.N., reports that piracy
costs world commerce an estimated $12 billion a year.
Because of the attention focused on the Gulf of Aden,
the pirates now operate over a much wider area, from the
Strait of Hormuz and into the Red Sea and virtually anywhere in the Indian Ocean. A new tactic that has
emerged during the past year is the hijacking of larger
ships to be used as motherships to conduct attacks as
“pirate action groups” far into the Indian Ocean.
Mukundan said the pirates have become more brazen.
“An unprecedented attack took place in August by a
hijacked dhow, which entered the port of Salaah, Oman,
against an anchored product tanker. The tanker was hi-
Current counterpiracy measures are pushing Somali pirates to go
farther from home to find and target ships, and use more sophisticated tactics.
; Pirates are hijacking larger ships to use as “pirate action group”
motherships for conducting coordinated swarm attacks.
; The shipping industry has developed a set of Best
Management Practices to advise companies how to avoid, deter
or delay pirate attacks.
; Ships with armed guards have not successfully been hijacked.
Ships worth $100 million to $200 million, car- rying cargo that might be worth twice that, continue to be attacked by pirates in small
wooden skiffs off the Northeast African coast despite
an international armada trying to protect shipping and
hunt the pirates down.
The hijacked ships and cargo — and much worse,
the crews — are being held for multimillion dollar ransoms and large amounts of money often secretly
changes hands to set the ships free.
And while the concerted effort to stop them has had an
impact, the pirates are growing even bolder and adapting
their tactics because the reward is worth the risk.
“Ransom amounts have increased to an average of
$5.4 million per ship from just $150,000 five years ago,”
said Indian Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Nirmal
Verma, speaking at the International Navies Symposium
at the Naval War College, Newport, R.I., in October.
Somali pirates have netted ransom payments of
nearly $110 million this year, a 37 percent jump in two
years, according to a Nov. 6 report in the Kenyan publication The East African.
“Statistics for piracy and armed robbery at sea in the
first nine months of 2011 are higher than recorded for