In the past several years, pirate attacks on vessels in the northern Indian Ocean made headlines as hostages and the ships on which they worked were held for ransom in record numbers. It proved to be an attractive and lucrative career for poor residents of Somalia and surrounding areas — many of whom have little prospects for traditional money-making opportunities.
But pirates haven’t been so successful in recent months. In fact, the U.S. Navy reports that there was an 80% decline in overall attempted attacks in 2012 compared with 2011. In terms of vessels hijacked, the number decreased by almost 75%. The reason for this drastic decrease is simple: self-defense.
As African Business reports:
“The ultimate security measure a commercial ship can adopt is the use of privately contracted armed security teams,” says Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs of the US State Department. “These teams are often made up of former members of various armed forces, who guard merchant ships during transits through high risk waters,” he told a recent briefing in Washington. “The use of armed private sector security teams has been a potential game changer in combating piracy. To date, not a single ship with armed security personnel aboard has been successfully pirated.”
Other protective measures adopted by merchant shipping includes passing through high risk areas at full speed and erecting physical barriers, such as razor wire, to make it more difficult for pirates to come aboard.
So, even though the threat remains, it seems that companies are taking every effort to prevent attacks on vessels and staff. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted in a 2009 speech, “We may be dealing with a 17th century crime, but we need to bring 21st century solutions to bear.” It seems those 21st century solutions are working.