The Ocean Beyond Piracy Report 2017 has been released on 23 May 2018 and offers a comprehensive assessment of the economic and human costs of piracy in East Africa, West Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Report shows that, despite the actions taken to counter piracy, it still poses a serious threat in all the regions analysed, with all the differences they present.
East Africa remains the region with the higher total economic cost of piracy, which amounts to 1.4 Billion $ in 2017, a figure that remains within the historical norms of the past 3 years (in 2016, the total cost amounted to 1.7 Billion $). Compared to the other regions, in East Africa the threat is posed by hijacked vessels more than in the other regions where the nature of incidents is more related to kidnapping-for-ransom or the kidnapping of cargos/yachts.
The captured of the ARIS-13, coming from Djibouti and heading towards Mogadishu, on the 23 of March 2017, has been the first hijacking of an ocean-going merchant vessel in five years and represented a worrying signal of the surge of piracy activities in the Horn of Africa. This surge has been attributed to different factors, including continued intent of pirate action groups to launch attacks and the opportunity to do so, due to lessened adherence to ship self-protection measures, including Best Management Practices (BMP). The vessels hijacked in 2017 have been in total 4, the already-mentioned Aris-13, Asayr-2, al Kausar and 1 dhow. The actions pursued indicate that Somali criminal networks are still capable of sophisticated attacks.
According to the Report, the total incidents linked to piracy activities registered last year have been 54 compared to the 27 registered in 2016. Accordingly, 2017 saw an increase in the number of seafarers affected by incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea, from 545 in 2016 to 1,102 in 2017.
West Africa and, in particular, Gulf of Guinea continue to be a dangerous hotbed for piracy activities. Even if the number of piracy incidents in 2017 stayed at essentially the same elevated level as in 2016, the kidnappings in 2017 were much more successful than in 2016. On what may be a new trend, a series of attacks took place on anchored ships in ports along the western coast of Africa, from Sierra Leone to Cape Verde.
The cost of piracy in the region amounts to 818.1 Million $, an increase compared to the 793.7 Million $ in 2016. The Gulf of Guinea is interested, above all, by piracy and armed robbery. To date, 100 crewmembers were taken hostage in 2017. Nevertheless, Regional navies continued to enhance their enforcement capabilities through the acquisition of new naval assets, more multinational exercises, and further development of the Yaoundé Process-based information sharing architecture. This is reflected in an increase in the patrol days recorded for regional navies and a 27 percent increased rate of responses to attack incidents by maritime enforcement agencies, that in 2017 amounts to 13.2 Million $.
Asia is a virtuous case as regards the increase of security in the sea, compared to the other regions analysed here. Ninety-nine incidents occurred in Asia during 2017. This represents a 23 percent decrease in overall incidents from 2016, and a 51 percent decrease from 2015. The sharp decrease in overall incidents can be attributed, at least in part, to the actions of local law enforcement and military actors. In total, regional law enforcement responded to 27 of the 99 incidents—a high response rate of 27 percent.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, an increasing number of piracy incidents have been registered. In 2017, Oceans Beyond Piracy recorded 71 incidents, a 163 percent increase over 2016. By calculating the value of the ship stores stolen in 41 incidents and crew belongings reported stolen on 18 occasions in 2017, the total worth of goods stolen in 2017 roughly amounts $949,000 dollars’. The main incidents hotspots have been identified in territorial waters of Venezuela, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Colombia, and St. Lucia.
The phenomenon of piracy is linked to a wide array of causes, including lack of opportunities, need of survival, lack of development and the destabilised political context. In case of East Africa, for example, the insecure environment, due to the spill-over from the conflict in Yemen, allows piracy and other maritime crimes to thrive and continue unabated. Therefore, a comprehensive and cross-sectoral cooperation is needed to tackle maritime insecurity and address the threats posed by piracy. In this context, the European Union has just revised the EUMSS Action Plan which has a strong focus on regional activities and stresses the importance of the strengthening of the internal-external security nexus together with the security-development one.