Ahead of the upcoming Seatrade Middle East Maritime exhibition and conference, the International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre confirms that pirate attacks off the Somali coast have declined by more than 54%, leading to a softening of insurance premiums for the global shipping community but raising controversy surrounding the use of onboard private armed security contractors.
According to IMB September 2012 figures, global attacks on commercial and private vessels stood at 225 incidents year-to-date with 70 recorded attacks off the Somali coast, with 11 ships seized and 188 hostages currently being held for ransom. In the first six months of 2012 IMB recorded a 54% drop in pirate activity against 2011, with 177 incidents reported against 266 in the same period last year, supported by additional data released by the United States Navy.
While moves to thwart piracy activity in the Gulf of Aden appear to be paying off, the IMB says that Somali piracy in the Indian Ocean gives serious ongoing cause for concern, as well as noting a shift in geographical focus from East to West Africa. Increased attacks are also being reported in the Gulf Of Guinea, Nigeria and Togo, as well as further afield in Indonesian waters.
"The world's busiest trading routes are still suffering from the ongoing threat of piracy, which costs global trade up to US$12 billion annually. Aggressive patrolling by international combined naval forces and the increase - over the last 12 months - in the use of private armed security contractors onboard vessels, are acting as an effective deterrent in many cases, but the regulatory oversight of these emerging number of private firms is currently a 'grey area'," said Chris Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade.
This, and other security issues, will be debated by a panel of industry experts at Seatrade Middle East Maritime's 2012 conference, with a dedicated session taking place on Wednesday 28th November to assess the current state of the maritime industry's response to piracy and how best to move forward in developing a safer, more effective and more accountable defence response. Confirmed speakers include Peter Cook, Security Director and Founder, Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI); Roberto Giorgi, President, V Ships; Pottendal Mukundan, Director, International Maritime Bureau; Simon Osborne, Regional Director, Protection Vessels International (PVI) and Todd J Offutt, Commander US Coastguard, Officer in Charge, US Maritime Liaison Office (MARLO).
Currently, some three dozen warships patrol more than one million square miles of territory, with the European Union Naval Force antipiracy operation including ships from the UK Royal Navy and EU country members, as well presence from the US Navy, Russia, India, China and NATO.
"The third link in the chain is training for commercial ship captains in evasive techniques, as well as the introduction of protective measures including barbed wire defences and powerful water hose facilities are also proving to be highly effective, and forcing pirates to turn to smaller, less lucrative vessels rather than large oil tankers and cargo ships," said Hayman.
In its Q3 2012 report entitled 'Pirates and Privateers: Managing the Indian Ocean's private security room', Australia's Lowy Institute for International Policy raises concerns regarding the legitimacy of the more than 140 companies currently offering private contractor services, and highlighting regulatory issues and instances of international disputes over the last year as a pressing issue for the industry and governments in troubled international waters.
The three-day Seatrade conference programme is split into three daily sessions, with industry leaders from across the globe participating in panel discussions that will examine the state of the industry and offer an interactive platform for delegates to share experiences and expert insight.