Maritime Piracy: Rising Threats and Global Responses


Even if international efforts have helped to reduce the number of successful kidnappings, piracy at sea is still on the rise.


Even if international efforts have helped to reduce the number of successful kidnappings, piracy at sea is still on the rise. Although it has been declining since its peak in 2010, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has since recorded hundreds of pirate attacks.

Although progress has been made in eradicating the threat of piracy, in Somalia and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, ships are urged to remain vigilant in navigating the region, in particular taking note of the increasingly fragile situation on land in Somali.

Fighting piracy is a difficult and complex task, requiring more patrols in the – fragile – waters.

In today’s world, piracy at sea may be costly for individual shippers, but the fact is that costs are sometimes minimal and the difference between the pirates on land and those who live with them is the same. For example, the best way to combat piracy at sea is for Somalia, as a nation, to invest in the security of its people trying to stop on the land all those pirates who may be doing business at sea.

Most of Governments do not therefore see piracy as a serious threat to the security of their citizens. The fact that pirates are not prosecuted under anti-piracy laws also makes it difficult to determine how often piracy is committed. For example, in Asia while the amount of piracy in the Yellow Sea may be too small to report, limited success against pirates may also discourage ships from reporting pirate acts.

Although China has made international efforts to combat piracy, a recent report by the International Maritime Organization shows that it has neglected domestic piracy in recent years.

The global response to piracy is poorly coordinated, leading to ineffective prosecution of pirates.

In 2012, piracy caused $6.1 billion in economic costs in Somalia alone, according to the Oceans of Piracy, and piracy at sea and criminal instability in the country periodically affected oil supplies. Another example is the state of Nigeria. A five percent drop in Nigerian production is a direct result of security concerns, including piracy.

West African pirates attacked at least 1,871 sailors in 2012, and 279 of them were taken hostage, according to the International Maritime Organization, an advocacy group that works on maritime safety issues. If we add the pirates, their naval forces and the capturing states, the list includes six states involved, making it one of the biggest and most dangerous threats to global security. One of the best options for tackling the problem of maritime piracy in this area could therefore be a funding programme for the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and its partners.

The OEF’s Oceans of Piracy programme seeks to promote responses to maritime piracy through public-private partnerships that promote long-term solutions at sea and on land and sustainable deterrence based on the rule of law. The authors state very clearly that the international community is unable to tackle the problem of maritime piracy, although it is important to eliminate the threat to trade and security. The Construction of Global Governance offers an improved theoretical understanding of the sometimes conflicting motivations of the main actors involved and the role of international law enforcement agencies in the fight against piracy.

The crime of piracy at sea is defined in the laws of each country, and there is not a single state or intergovernmental institution that regulates it. The IMO has taken a number of measures to address this in the areas affected by piracy, although positive results are still awaited. Currently, the pirates are under control at sea and is only a matter of time before the next wave of attacks comes.

Piracy, terrorism and illegal trade are the problems that those who are linked with maritime trade are asking for and they are calling for broader solutions. This remains a very worrying issue, given the outbreak of piracy.

It undermines the integrity of maritime trade and the security of the global economy, especially when there is impunity. It follows, without doubt, that piracy at sea is a serious threat to global security and economic stability, as well as to the international economy.

Adriano Margarone

for Insider Release

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