This 2016 study represents the seventh year that Oceans Beyond Piracy began the State of Maritime Piracy report series. Since the beginning of the series, the scope of the research has expanded to include analyses of the economic and human costs of piracy in the Western Indian Ocean Region, West Africa, Asia, and—for the first time this year—Latin America and the Caribbean.
Maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea impacts a wide range of stakeholders in a multitude of ways. OBP believes that it is possible to end violence at sea and that identifying and explaining the significance of these crimes is an important step in achieving this mission.
- Decreased vigilance and deterrence in high risk areas is providing pirate networks with the opportunity to attack vulnerable vessels, especially off the Horn of Africa.
- Kidnap for ransom attacks in the Sulu and Celebes Seas in South East Asia have significantly increased in 2016.
- West Africa, and particularly the waters off Nigeria, continues to be an area of concern as the number of piracy attacks almost doubled from 2015.
- The first ever analysis of the human cost of piracy and armed robbery in Latin America is included in this year’s study.
Sustaining the Effort of Deterring Somali Piracy
While spending towards at sea counter-piracy efforts has declined in recent years, very little funding has shifted towards building regional maritime security capacity.
Is it time to identify a maritime security deterrence threshold?
If international maritime security efforts are further reduced before more robust regional mechanisms are in place, it may create opportunities for piracy and other maritime crimes to continue unabated.
EAST AFRICA KEY FINDINGS
- The total cost of counter-piracy operations in the Western Indian Ocean has steadied out at around $1.5 billion.
- As coalition forces have ended or decreased their commitments, independent deployments from various countries such as China, India and Japan now account for the majority of days on station with relation to naval counter-piracy operations.
- In an attempt to lower costs, ship operators are increasingly shifting towards privately contracted armed security teams comprising three rather than four members (almost 70% in Q4 2016).
- Oceans Beyond Piracy welcomes the efforts of the Hostage Support Partnership (HSP) in releasing the Naham 3 crewmembers, who were held for over 4 ½ years and released on 22 October 2016.
- Eight crewmembers taken from the Iranian dhow Siraj in 2015 have yet to be released.
- Piracy and armed robbery in the Western Indian Ocean region affected a total of 545 seafarers in 2016.
- In 2016, no hijackings were recorded, but several suspicious incidents indicate that the capability and intent of pirate groups remain. The opportunity to commit acts of piracy continues to increase as vigilance by the shipping community decreases. This trend has been underlined by recent events and attacks in early 2017.
- Pirate gangs and kingpins have been involved in a diverse array of illicit maritime activities that have helped to fund piracy activities in 2017.
- The socio-political environment in Somalia(including lack of economic opportunity, lack of governance and lack of law enforcement capability) that initially allowed piracy to flourish remains largely unchanged, particularly in the traditional pirate safe havens.
WEST AFRICA KEY FINDINGS
- Deterring piracy in West Africa remains a significant and persistent cost to both regional and international stakeholders.
- Contracted maritime security is the single largest contributor to the cost of deterring piracy in West Africa at an estimated 44% of the total cost, though detailed figures are difficult to calculate.
- The international community continues to support regional efforts to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea, spending in excess of $5 million on related capacity building programs and organizations involved in the improvement of maritime security.
- 2016 saw a 57% rise in the number of seafarers affected by piracy in West Africa.
- Kidnap for ransom attacks increased by more than one-third from 2015 to 2016, while the average duration of captivity remained consistent with past years.
- The lack of prosecutions related to incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea continues to undermine efforts to combat piracy.
- The number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea that OBP recorded in West Africa increased from 54 in 2015 to 95 in 2016.
- As in 2015, there was only one incident of hijacking for cargo theft which reflects a shift towards the kidnap for ransom model which requires less organization and is less risky for pirates.
- Violent attacks were more concentrated in Nigerian waters than in previous years, highlighting that piracy and armed robbery at sea in West Africa is strongly influenced by the domestic security situation in Nigeria.
ASIA KEY FINDINGS
- As with previous reports, OBP was precluded from estimating aggregate costs of piracy and armed robbery in Asia due to the complexity of shipping patterns and difficulty in isolating dedicated counter-piracy patrols of regional naval and law enforcement agencies.
- The creation of response teams and coordinated patrols by littoral states has led to the enhanced ability of regional actors to conduct counter-piracy operations and has contributed to the decrease in piracy and armed robbery incidents in Asia, notably of hijackings for cargo theft.
- As a result of attacks occurring in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, many merchant vessels have been rerouted to avoid this area.
- OBP calculated that 2,283 seafarers were affected by piracy and armed robbery in Asia in 2016, down from 3,674 in 2015.
- Kidnap for ransom represented the most violent model in 2016, with 67 seafarers taken hostage in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, of which two were killed while in captivity.
- Compared to 2015, the percentage of incidents involving crew member injuries decreased from 23 to 12 injuries. However, 2016 saw an increase in seafarer deaths; 6 seafarers were killed during or as a result of incidents.
- 2016 saw a substantial increase in the number of kidnappings that occurred in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, prompting the establishment of coordinated maritime patrols by littoral states.
- The number of overall incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea recorded by OBP in 2016 decreased by 35% compared to 2015, highlighting the importance effectiveness of regional cooperation and information sharing mechanisms.
- The number of hijackings for cargo theft incidents recorded by OBP decreased from 12 in 2015 to just three in 2015.
Sustaining the Effort: Combatting Somali Piracy
In 2016, the Western Indian Ocean continued to see limited piracy activity, largely due to at sea mitigation efforts over recent years. However, several attacks in early 2017 highlight the many gaps that still remain.
While incidents of piracy have been reduced, so has the international community’s commitment to a sustained effort to ensure that piracy does not re-emerge. Additionally, very little funding has shifted toward building the capacity of regional maritime forces.
Despite their limitations, regional maritime security entities have had some success in responding to piracy incidents. Supporting their efforts is essential for deterring maritime crimes off of the coast of Somalia.