The international Maritime Bureau (IMB) has announced piracy at sea has reached its lowest level in six years, with 240 attacks reported worldwide in 2013 – a 40 per cent drop since Somali piracy peaked in 2011, noted the IMB. Reasons for the decline, highlighted the IMB, include the role of maritime navies and the use of private armed security teams.

However, despite promising statistics, the maritime security industry continues to be fearful of this threat that, though existent, rarely affects the superyacht industry, and remains hesitant to celebrate with fears arising concerning a consequent complacency. “It is imperative to continue combined international efforts to tackle Somali piracy. Any complacency at this stage could rekindle pirate activity,” warned Captain Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB.

Carl Fereday of maritime security provider, Veritas International predicted a resultant drop in anti-piracy efforts, and told “Governments’ funding for international naval support will surely decline and other military priorities compete against a dwindling pool of these high-value assets. For private maritime security companies that had their genesis in the hydra of spin-off piracy commercialism at its peak, unless they have diversified into other areas of private security, 2014 looks like being particularly bleak.”

Peter Cook, founder and security director of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI), postulated that complacency could even result in a backwards step. “The last thing we can afford to be is complacent because everything we have done thus far is reversible,” cautioned Cook, who remains not wholly convinced by the statistics themselves.

With varying definitions of piracy, questions remain as to the accuracy of the statistics. Credit: Alamy.

“Everybody uses statistics for their own advantage. Without a shadow of a doubt the number of pirates out there has reduced [and] and the IMB has done an excellent job and is reporting what it has found. But it is my opinion that not all attacks are being reported. Bear in mind that the [merchant] shipping industry is overborne by capacity, a result of which makes it a charterer’s market. When a shipowner goes to see a charterer he can say, ‘I’ve got three people knocking on my door asking to take this cargo. What’s your best offer before I decide to give it to you?’ If the shipowner decides to announce every single time he has a close shave or a very close move by a suspected pirate, the charterers would get to hear about that and would then be able to use that as another lever to get a reduced price. Moreover, if a suspect skiff comes past you and your armed team are on board and they hold their weapons above their heads, and the pirates then go away, would you report that?

“Another factor is that there are a number of agencies reporting piracy incidents but each of them have a different definition of what a piracy incident is,” continued Cook. “So it’s not quite cut and dried.”

Nonetheless, the figures speak for themselves and the industry agrees there has been a drop in piracy. And it is in the successful application of security measures that the maritime industry can find solace. “An enormous advantage to emerge from this relatively short period of frenetic illegal activity is the raised standard of security awareness and associated operating procedures across the private maritime security sector,” said Fereday.

Despite promising statistics, the maritime industry continues to remain fearful of piracy as an ever-present threat. Yet the figures, at the very least, point towards our adopted security measures and provide proof of the successful growth of one of the industry’s younger, evolving sectors.

Profile links

Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI)

Veritas International Consultants

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