An outlook of international Piracy
Nowadays 90% of world’s transportation is being served by the maritime industry that has grown considerably since the early 90’s due to the expansion of the international trade and the ever-increasing volume of the Asian economy. In parallel the expansion of international organized crime coupled with the emergence of terrorist networks has reminded once again the all-timely issue of piracy and its negative side effects for the maritime sector.
In this point, it should be noted that international piracy, organized crime and terrorist organizations create nowadays the so-called "Hybrid criminal networks"(1), as a RAND report acknowledged. Therefore the monitoring of this type of criminal activity provides vital information on the transnational terrorism threats and their offshoots across the world.
There are several “Hot spots” across the oceans and high-Seas that are considered to be of highly problematic areas as far as incidents of piracy are concerned, and it is important to pin point them in order to create a clear image of the perils involved for the maritime professionals and travelers as well. Most of these danger-areas are to be found in the developing world and in the Southern Hemisphere, addressing thus the inexorable synthesis between poverty and criminality.
Firstly the state of Nigeria-especially the Delta area and Bonny river- is highly dangerous. According to guidelines provided by the Australian ministry of foreign affairs to its citizens (2) the maritime area in Lagos port are extremely dangerous for foreign maritime visitors and piracy is a regular phenomena. Moreover it is advised to notify all authorities and the foreign missions in order for the vessel to be always monitored.
The social unrest in Nigeria is the major factor for piracies that frequently are to be conducted in broad daylight and with occasional victims from the foreign crews. Moreover the state of Nigeria is one that has a continuing climate of social and ethnic unrest, and the piracy incidents are one of the sources by which capital is accumulated by criminal networks that in their turn provide contribution to warlords and local rivaling chieftains.
A Second geographical area that is of high piracy list is Somalia and the neighboring waters. According to the independent analysis institute “Protocol” in Denmark (3) there is a considerable increase in piracy reports in Somalia. In 2004 there were two, whereas 35 incidents were recorded in 2005.
Furthermore the recent political upheaval in the country that is suffering from a civil war between Islamists and secular forces(4) will most certainly create further a favorable climate for piracies and it is strictly advised for all passing or incoming vessels to take all precautionary measures to avoid sea attacks. It is also worthwhile to note that in the Somalian waters, piracy has occurred even 400 miles offshore with the use of speed boats that operate as “Blue Water” attack forces. This represents a highly sophisticated capability of those pirates that surely highlights the importance of this particular issue for the regional security of the Indian Ocean.
Continuing Bangladesh is another state that has its share in piracy incidents (5) even though there is no trend in that activity that indicates the creation of a problematic constituency for the whole of the country. The most common reason for the attacks in Bangladesh is the stealing of the vessels fuel as well as itinerary that are being resold in Dhaka’s market in relation to the large black market that operates in the capital. In the Indian subcontinent another hot spot is the Chennai port of India.
There are reports (6) of sporadic attacks in this port despite the efforts of the Indian coast guard to subdue the pirates. It is not an issue that has drawn worldwide attention one has to be prudent though to take all necessary measures when visiting this focal Indian port that is one of the largest in the Indian Ocean.
The most well-known piracy prone country is Indonesia that continues to create obstacles in the sea trade due to the variety of attacks against the merchant navy. BBC has recently confirmed that there was a 63% increase of piracy incidents in Indonesian waters (7) despite a temporary decrease in the aftermath of the catastrophic Tsunami in early 2005.
The “Pirate culture’ in the Indonesian archipelagos is deeply rooted and it is extremely difficult for the feeble Indonesian navy to deal decisively and in all aspects with the aforementioned. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that piracy will continue as an endemic Indonesian affair and high security will be required by all mariners circumnavigating those waters for the years to come.
Another area to watch is the Aden Gulf and the Yemen offshore area. This an area characterized of high trade volume upstream to Suez Channel and downstream towards East Asia. The political complications of Yemen and Eritrea and the existence of terrorist networks have culminated in the increase of piracy over the last decade. News briefings (8) indicate the attention that must be paid and also urge for increase international navy protection of passing vessels.
In relation to the neighboring Somalia this particular area could create major problems in the international sea transportation in the next few years and the culmination of Islamist extremism as it was pointed out in the attack against a French ship in 2002; will most certainly draw more the attention of the naval powers in the near future.
Lastly a new addition would be the state of Peru and especially the Callao area. Piracy reports (9) have already showed an increase in low scale attacks that inflict mostly small sized vessels for the time being. A reassuring factor in this case, is the existence of a well-equipped Peruvian Navy that can deal with the piracy, but that of course remains to be seen.
Piracy is an old aged practice that is equivalent to the mountaineering bandits as some may draw the comparison. In our age of increased globalization and need for safe transportations; piracy is an obstacle that has to be dealt with. Moreover since piracy is in most cases connected to peripheral organized crime syndicates that are lured by the richness of every vessels bounty, it is reasonable to expect an enlargement of shipping security as well as intelligence in order to predict and protect this important sector. Last but not least the involvement of terrorist networks with organized crime as far as transgression in the sea is concerned; is a new phenomenon that must be addressed by the international community in the same respect as air travel and railway infrastructure, the other two life-lines of world’s commerce.
(2) Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs-Travelers notice for Nigeria- www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/Nigeria .
(3) www.protocol-learning.net –Article “The Pirates of the Horn-State Collapse and the Maritime Threat”.
(6) From Hindu Business Line- www.blonnet.com/2003/11/17/stories/2003111700030600.htm