The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has reported that the number of pirate attacks have dropped in 2011 to 439 cases, a small decrease from 445 in 2010. Overall, worldwide sea piracy has dropped for the first time in five years, but Somali pirates have strengthened the attacks and still remain the greatest threats to maritime security.
In 2010, there were 53 ship seizures and almost 1,200 people taken hostage. International naval patrols and the increase in ship security personnel have lowered these statistics in 2011 to 45 hijacked vessels and approximately 802 hostages.
Somali piracy accounts for 54% off all global attacks with a total of 237 cases last year, a slight increase from 219 in 2010. They are even becoming more desperate in their attacks, according to the IMB, as they have recently hijacked a vessel at anchorage for the first time. Vigilance at ports and on anchored vessels is necessary. Navies are also critical to anti-piracy efforts in the area.
Somalia provides a perfect haven for pirates as the country has not had a functioning government in over 20 years. In addition to the continuous civil war, the country’s long coastline twists along the Horn of Africa, a popular shipping route. Currently, an international warship fleet monitor the waters threatened by Somali pirates, and have been successful in preventing attacks. In the area near the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal, attacks have fallen by 43%.
Reports from IMB peg other countries as piracy hotspot emergences. Benin was responsible for 20 tanker attacks in 2011, eight of which included vessel hijacking. Neighboring Nigeria had 10 reported attacks on vessels, with over 30 that were left unreported. Compared to Somali hijackings, ships seized in these countries are usually released in days compared to months, but they are getting increasingly more violent. Sea robbery has also rose in Indonesia to 46 attacks annually in 2011.
On the other hand, pirate attacks in the South China Sea and Bangladesh have improved, more than halving their attack numbers from 2010 to 2011. This proves that Coast Guard initiatives are effective.