The International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) an- nounced in a mid-January report that piracy
at sea worldwide had dropped to its lowest levels in six
years. Significant among the IMB statistics was the dramatic decline in Somali piracy incidents since its peak
in 2011, with only 15 incidents reported in 2013,
down from 75 in 2012 and 237 in 2011.
Experts and stakeholders across the maritime
industry recognized three primary factors responsible
for the turnaround, particularly with regard to
Somalia, among them the use of industry-based guidelines for merchant vessels known as Best Management
Practices (BMP); the robust multinational naval presence in the Horn of Africa; and the increased use of private maritime security companies (PMSCs) and privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP)
on merchant vessels.
In the most recent testimony on efforts to combat
piracy in April 2013 before the U.S. House Trans-
portation and Infrastructure Coast Guard and maritime
transportation subcommittee, RADM Joseph W. Kuz-
mick, then-Navy director, operations and plans, speak-
ing on behalf of ADM Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of
naval operations, said: “While Best
Management Practices provide an
increased level of protection against
pirate attacks, and naval operations
have provided an effective deterrent
to attacks in major shipping chan-
nels, Somali pirates were still able to
overcome these defensive measures,
specifically in areas outside major
shipping channels. As a result, ship
owners increasingly turned to
PCASP because of their effective-
ness in preventing pirate boardings.
To date, no vessel with a PCASP has
been successfully hijacked by
While explaining a range of scenarios as to the success
rate in dealing with piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden,
and pointing out the comparatively different challenges
in maritime crime on Africa’s west coast in the Gulf of
Guinea, Kuzmick reiterated the effectiveness of PCASP,
and underscored the rapid growth of this relatively new
business marketplace for maritime security professionals
working for PMSCs.
From what was just a handful of companies five years
ago, a vast private maritime security industry has blossomed, with more than 200 companies worldwide,
including about eight in the United States, said retired
Navy CAPT William H. Watson, vice president and governor of the Maritime Security Council. The demand for
private maritime security comes principally from owners and operators of the world’s commercial blue-water
vessels, Watson told Seapower.
They include shippers who operate product tankers,
largely oil and gas, and bulk cargo vessels that traverse
any number of high-risk areas (HRAs) in international
and coastal waters. HRAs, according to IMB data that
list piracy- and robbery-prone areas, are Africa, from
Nigeria, Benin and the Ivory Coast to Somalia; the Gulf
of Aden and the Red Sea; as well as routes across the
Security on Demand
Use of private maritime security companies
plays key role in decline of piracy incidents
By DAISY R. KHALIFA, Special Correspondent
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 36 SEAPOWER / MARCH 2014
Experts and stakeholders across the maritime industry say there
are three primary factors responsible for the dramatic decline in
incidents of piracy, particularly with regard to Somalia.
■ First, is the use of industry-based guidelines for merchant vessels known as Best Management Practices.
■ Multinational naval operations have provided an effective deterrent to attacks in the Horn of Africa.
■ Shippers have turned to privately contracted armed security personnel because of their effectiveness in preventing pirate boardings.