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2011 Pirate Attacks at Record Pace July 14, 2011

Posted by Chris Mark in Piracy & Maritime Security, Risk & Risk Management.
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If the first six months of 2011 are any indication, the year is going to break records for the number of pirate attacks.  In the first six months of the year attacks are up 36% from 2010.  According to IMB, from January through June of 2011 there were 266 attacks compared with 196 a year earlier. While the number of attacks increased, the number of ships hijacked fell from 27 to 21 due to increased security measures.  Pirates only hijacked 1 in 8 vessels this year compared with 1 in 4 last year.  Unfortunately, there is a downside to the increased security.

According to IMB the pirates are taking more risks and becoming more violent in their attacks.  This year pirates fired upon ships during monsoon season for the first time.

Monsoon weather in the Indian Ocean region that began in early June displaced pirates to the Gulf of Aden and the southern Red Sea, the IMB said. It called the 18 attacks reported in the Red Sea area since May 20 “a cause for concern.” Three attacks in the Indian Ocean in adverse weather showed threats remained during monsoons for the first time, the IMB said, citing winds of 34 miles an hour and swells of 4.5 meters (15 feet).

“It may be that these recent Indian Ocean incidents are a sign of desperation on behalf of pirates, or that there are many more pirate action groups operating now than there were in 2010, particularly outside the Gulf of Aden,” the IMB said.

In short, while increased security measures may be hampering the success of pirates, this trend is not expected to last.  The potential ‘return on investment’ of a hijacking is simply too great for pirates to ignore.  The result with be an inevitable cycle of increased security followed by increased risk taking by the pirates.  This pattern can be seen developing now.  It is important for shipping companies to evaluate arming their ships with professional security personnel to prevent hijackings.

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