East African coastline attracts attention as piracy drops
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
By Njiraini Muchira
The East Africa Coastline is fast regaining its position as a safe route for shipping companies. This follows a significant drop in piracy.
Once regarded as the most dangerous coastline for shippers due to pirates operating in the lawless Somalia, increased surveillance has seen a drastic drop such cases.
The surveillance has been executed by Kenyan military and international security forces.
War on al Shabaab
The war that Kenya Defence Forces waged against the militant al Shabaab group in 2011 has had substantial impacts on dismantling the piracy networks. It culminated in the capture of Kismayu, Al Shabaab’s operational base.
The latest findings by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), an umbrella body for the shipping industry, show cases of piracy on the world’s seas reached a five year-low in 2012 driven by a sharp drop in the East Africa region. According to IMB, 297 ships were attacked in 2012 compared with 439 in 2011. East and West Africa remains the hotbed for piracy with 150 attacks in 2012.
In Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, 75 ships reported attacks in 2012 compared to 237 in 2011, accounting for 25 per cent of incidents worldwide.
The number of Somali hijackings declined by half from 28 in 2011 to 14 last year.
As of December 31, 2012, Somali pirates still held 104 hostages on eight ships and 23 more were detained on land, pending negotiations for their release.
“There is a welcome reduction in hijackings and attacks to ships but crews must remain vigilant, particularly in the highly dangerous waters off East and West Africa,” said Pottengal Mukundan, IMB director.
In recent years, there have been efforts by the international community to tackle the piracy menace within the East Africa coastline. This has been through patrol by international forces and increased vigilance by the commercial shipping industry. Between 2008 and last year pirates operating off East Africa cost the global economy as much as $12 billion (Sh1.044 trillion) per year. They killed dozens of hostages and held ships and their crews for ransoms of up to $9.5 million.
In 2011, maritime operators incurred approximately $635 million (Sh55.25 billion) on war risk as well as kidnap and ransom insurance, $2 billion on security equipment’s and guards and $680 million (Sh59.2 billion) on re-routing of ships.
According to the Colorado-based IMB, some of the strategies that have resulted in the drop in piracy cases were navies deterring pirates with pre-emptive strikes. “The continued presence of the navy is vital to ensuring that Somali piracy remains low,” said Mukundan.
According IMB, although piracy has been on a decline in East Africa, in West Africa the menace is on the rise particularly within the Gulf of Guinea.
Last, 58 incidents were recorded in West Africa including 10 hijackings and 207 crew members taken hostage.
Nigeria accounted for 27 incidents compared to 10 incidents in 2011 followed by Togo with 15 cases compared to five in 2011 and Ivory Coast with five incidents up from one in 2011.