PROTECTING SHIPS FROM SOMALI PIRATES

Apr 07th 2013

PROTECTING SHIPS FROM SOMALI PIRATES

U.S. Navy Must Make Changes in Piracy Prevention

In 2012 the number of successful pirate seizures of merchant ships fell from a 2009 figure of 38 to 21 according to the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) command in Bahrain but another statistic published by the group highlights a more troubling trend. In an official press release CMF states “The number of attacks, including attempts to seize a vessel, within the HRA has increased from 145 in 2009 to 183 last year.”

In short we are no closer to solving the problem, which has only become more complicated since 2009 when Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, former deputy of U.S. Africa Command, referred to piracy near Somalia as a “a very, very complex situation”.

Since that time the global cost of piracy has steadily increase with current estimates exceeding $7 Billion per year as new resources continue to flood the region. Some experts, however, conclude that the addition of coalition warships, diplomatic working groups and private security firms, increases complexity and further confuses ship owners looking for simple solutions.

For this reason, the U.S. Navy’s Maritime Liaison Office (MARLO) recently announced that improving communication and coordination between stakeholders is a top priority for the US Navy. In recent press releases MARLO has stated the need to “coordinate political, military, and other efforts” in the region and to continue its mission to “promote cooperation between the U.S. Navy and the commercial maritime community.”

With real time naval intelligence, thousands of Combined Maritime Force (CMF) sailors and dozens of warships available to protect commercial ships transiting Somali waters, MARLO has a lot of firepower at its disposal. But to be effective they need the help and support of ship owners and operators.

In a recent survey conducted by the maritime industry website gCaptain, only a small percentage of ship operators admitted to taking advantage of naval support, many were unaware of programs (e.g. public intelligence reports, convoys, etc) and, most surprisingly, some were not aware that naval officers are available at MARLO and CMF to answer their questions. All were confused with some of the options available to them.

“Private security teams have proven successful in preventing pirates from taking hostages but they are not the only resources available to ship owners.” said Joe Allen, CEO of Six Maritime, an American private security company based in San Diego.

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