I had some thoughts in regards to the numbers that have been floating around on piracy reporting in the Horn of Africa region, as compared with this year and last year. Last year the number of reported piracy attacks in the region are about 111 total attacks with about 42 hijackings for the year. This year, there have been approximately 32 hijackings with about 250 reported attacks for the same area, being the Gulf of Aden and the East Coast of Africa.
The reported hijackings are probably pretty factual, however, my thoughts are on the
supposed increase in attacks. When looking at the Live Piracy map by the IMB as a basis, I can see that the reported attacks of course have gone up dramatically, however, for some reason, the reported sightings of “suspicious” vessels stands at only three. This is what caught my eye and started my thought process as to the reality of attacks. The IMB admits that less than 50% of attacks are reported to the IMB, as merchant vessels are not 'required' to report attacks. Through a few informal talks with seaman, I found that the only attacks that are normally reported, are those that result in significant damage to the vessel, serious injury to a crew member, or of course, the actual successful hijacking itself. This is mostly due to the desire to maintain an 'incident free' situation with insurance
carriers, and the fact that if an attack is reported, the vessel may be held up for inspection causing unnecessary time delays and other matters with some port authorities. I have come to a few conclusions or a theory as to why the numbers have jumped significantly, and how the reporting of this can be very misleading. First we will start with the reporting. Most articles or reports, are missing one key element, and that is the word “REPORTED.” When the article is written or given on television, it is given that the number of attacks has significantly risen in the region. They are not taking into account that it is the number of Reported attacks has risen.
If you look at the numbers of reported attacks for the region, it is well over 100%
increase in the reported attacks, and we are not even finished with the year. However, the most interesting element, is if the attacks had actually increased, then the number of sightings of suspicious vessels would have increased dramatically as well. This significant increase in reported attacks coincides with the naval presence in the region. The navy ships are compelled to report all activity, to include calls for help by merchant vessels being attacked by pirates. n. However, the merchant vessels are not reporting a significant increase in the sightings of suspicious vessels. In order for the number of attacks to have literally increased over 100%, there would have to be a significant increase in actual pirate boats and pirates themselves. Almost all reported attacks involve about two skiffs, sometimes three and sometimes one. Therefore, there would have to be twice as many pirates on the water for the figures to match. I therefore conclude that the attack rate has not risen significantly, merely the reporting of the attacks has risen significantly.
I have concluded that this is the case due to the naval presence in the region. Before the naval presence, the merchant vessels fended for themselves and did not report attacks unless of the damage to the vessel, injury to the crew or an actual hijacking took place. Now that the naval entities are there, the merchant vessels have someone to call for help in the event of an attack. The naval vessels are compelled to report the call of distress, therefore, the number of reported incidents has risen significantly. Another way to substantiate this theory, is when
the incident is reported, the name of the vessel is not normally reported. Therefore, the report to the IMB came from the navy, not the individual vessel filing the report. The response to this may be causing the maritime industry to go in the wrong direction when it comes to vessel defense. The answer is not to rely on the naval flotilla, but to take the appropriate action to protect their own vessels.
Anyway, just some of my thoughts.