Piracy - Recent Attacks Underline Piracy Risks

6 September 2012

As the monsoon season that suppresses the activity of pirates operating in the Indian Ocean peters out, the shipping industry waits to see whether the pleasing reduction in attacks by Somali based pirates will be sustained. Members are encouraged to maintain close attention to their implementation of the current version of the Best Management Practices for protection against piracy attacks. It is thought that the increased use of private armed guards has also had a beneficial effect.

Last year the London P& I Club reported an increase in pirate activity in the waters off West Africa  and, unfortunately, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is again reporting a recent increase in attacks.  West African pirates continue to operate to a different strategy to those in the East;  undertaking violent theft of cash and other portable valuables. In the case of tankers laden with refined oil products, there is the added risk that the pirates sail the ship away and offload a part of the cargo.  Recent reports  also show signs of  pirates becoming more ambitious about the quantity of  this high value cargo that they will endeavour to steal. The opportunity for the pirates to sustain STS operations reflects the limited maritime presence of some of the port states in the region. Although Nigeria has greater resources, the use of private armed guards is prohibited locally and the state alternatives are reported to be of uncertain reliability. For this reason some of the established Private Armed Guards operating in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean are developing the capability to offer unarmed guards to supplement and, to the extent possible, oversee the conduct of the Nigerian state military guards. As in the Indian Ocean, the benefit of employing guards, armed or unarmed, private or state, should be considered as a part of a risk assessment and consistently with BMP4, much of which has relevance outside of the area of operation of Somali based pirates.