Piracy Brief

The ancient phenomenon of piracy is still flourishing in the 21st century, exposing the vulnerability of international shipping. Although it is not a “sea-born disease”, as the UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon stressed, but “… a symptom of conditions on the ground, including the overall security and political situation” in the hosting fragile states, it poses significant threats to maritime security. Besides the risks and the seafarers’ loss of lives, given that more than 80% of global trade is being transported in ships’ hulls, the disruption of sea-based trade routes endangers also energy, food, social and economic security, with multiple collateral effects. The number of hijacked and attacked vessels has sharply increased with alarming rates especially in the international shipping choke points of the Horn of Africa- Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Guinea and millions have been paid in ransom for the release of crews that had been taken hostage and kept in captivity for months along with their vessels.

Yet, despite the numerous UN Security Council resolutions, the three multinational Naval Forces’ operations and regional initiatives, contemporary piracy attacks still occur in almost daily basis. On the other hand, statistics say that most of the hijacked ships’ crews didn’t follow the “Best Management Practices” (BMP4) while no vessel protected by armed guards has been so far hijacked. Hence, until the root causes can be addressed properly as a long term response, pirate groups have to be thwarted and discouraged from organizing and perpetrating attacks in short terms through the crews’ training in implementing effectively the BMP4 guidelines and enhance their security with the deployment of armed guards onboard, during at least their transit through the identified as high risk areas.