Dryad Maritime Intelligence have today confirmed the first piracy attack of 2014 which saw an attack launched by Somali pirates south of Salalah in the late hours of January 17. The news comes hot on the heels of the latest International Maritime Bureau (IMB) annual report on piracy and maritime crime, which welcomes a decrease in Somali piracy in 2013.
In the incident on Friday, a Mothership-enabled PAG attacked a transiting vessel with small arms fire. The on board security team took appropriate action and repelled the attack with a graduated response, culminating in an exchange of fire. The pirates ignored deterrence and continued their approach, firing at the ship. A robust response from the embarked team was eventually enough to encourage the pirate skiff to return to the safety of its dhow mother vessel, allowing the merchant vessel to continue safely on its transit, reporting the incident to relevant authorities.
Ian Millen, Director of Intelligence, Dryad Maritime Intelligence, said, “This incident shows that, despite the very clear decline in the scope and scale of Somali piracy, as evidenced by the IMB’s latest report and Dryad Maritime Intelligence’s own figures, the threat remains very real. There has been a clear reversal of fortune for Somali pirates in the last two years; the combined effects of proactive naval operations, compliance with anti-piracy BMP 4 measures and the embarkation of armed security guards have made life more difficult for maritime criminals, but the problem is only broadly contained and is unlikely to be totally eradicated until a solution is found on the ground in Somalia.”
Dryad said, with a claim that no vessel has ever been hijacked with an armed security team on board, those that were initially skeptical on the prospect of having trained men and weapons embarked have more recently accepted that this particular ‘layer’ of defense has been a success story. Without armed guards, 2013 might not have been quite as bad a year as it was for Somali pirate gangs, Dryad estimates. With five merchant vessels and one fishing vessel attacked between the end of the SW Monsoon and year end, we could have seen a very different picture as we began 2014.
In each of the Somali pirate attacks, four in the Somali Basin/Indian Ocean and two in the Gulf of Aden, embarked security teams were involved in deterring or repelling the attackers. According to Dryad, had these vessels not had armed teams on board, up to three of them could be under Somali pirate control to this day, providing new ships and crews for ransom and energizing the Somali criminal cash flow, to say nothing of the morale boost for the pirates themselves following some very public and successful judicial outcomes in courts from the U.S.A. to Japan.
Of the attacks that did take place in late 2013, those in the Somali Basin and Indian Ocean had necessarily extended response times from coalition forces due to the significant distances that needed to be covered to render assistance. One PAG managed to conduct attacks on two separate ships on November 6 and 9 before NATO naval forces arrived to disrupt the group the day after the second attack. Both ships attacked had armed guards on board and were able to defend against the pirates who had travelled many hundreds of miles into the Indian Ocean in nothing more than a skiff and a whaler for logistic support. Without this defense, the pirates may have taken control of at least one of these vessels, Dryand said.
“There is no doubt that the good guys in the HRA have had a good year and that success has eluded the bad guys. With reports of more naval disruptions than pirate attacks in 2013 and the recent publication of the IMB’s annual figures, it is clear that the tide has turned for those who seek financial gain from the misery of others. But the most recent night time attack on 17th Jan – the first of 2014 – in the shipping lanes beyond the immediate protection of naval forces, is the clearest reminder of Somali pirate intent and capability. They may have taken a beating in 2013, but this attack has shown that Somali pirates still have the knowledge, the determination and the logistic capability to mount attacks against vulnerable ships” commented Ian.