By PHILIP MWAKIO
An international maritime anti-fraud agency has reported a reduction of 54 per cent in piracy attacks off Somalia coast.
This is according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre’s latest report confirming the criminal activity had declined by more than half.
“This has lead to a softening of insurance premiums for the global shipping community but raising controversy surrounding the use of onboard private armed security contractors,” IMB stated.
This is welcome news for cruise tourism along the East African coast that has suffered the brunt of piracy, though no single cruise liner has ever been captured by pirates.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caters (KAHC) Coast branch Executive Officer Sam Ikwaye said international cruise liners around-the-world voyage have skipped the Eastern rim of the Indian Ocean, only terminating their voyages around the idyllic Seychelles Islands.
“The port of Mombasa used to be a popular port of call for international cruise liners, on day stopovers or more. But piracy surges in this part of the Indian ocean led to the shippers to cancel Mombasa from their itinerary,’’ Ikwaye said.
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 per cent 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, IMB says Somali piracy in the Indian Ocean gives serious 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 in Indonesian waters,’’ IMB reports.
IMB states that the world’s busiest trading routes are still suffering from the ongoing threat of piracy, which costs global trade up to 12 billion US dollars 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 Seatrade Covention chair Chris Hayman.
Currently, some three dozen warships patrol more than one million square miles of territory, with the European Union Naval Force anti-piracy operation including ships from the United Kingdom Royal Navy and European Union country members, as well presence from the US Navy, Russia, India, China and Nato.
“The third link 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,” said Hayman.