April 16, 2009
We have seen all the headlines on the news; Gulf of Aden, Pirates, Hijack and Ransom. Most of the focus these days is being given to the Gulf of Aden, just south of the Suez Canal. We have all heard about the very published story of Maersk Alabama and more recently the very gallant rescue of her Captain from the pirates. I think if you speak to many of your friends they will no doubt point to the Gulf of Aden as the pirate capital of the world – NOT TRUE, at least based on statistics publish by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) between 2001 to 2007!
According to IMO statistics, of the 1,713 allegedly committed acts of piracy between 2001 and 2007, there were only 107 or 6.2% acts reported in East Africa! Comparatively, there were 586 acts or 34.2% reported to have been allegedly committed during the same period in the South China Sea. That’s almost five and a half times more! Even the Indian Ocean committed more attacks than pirates in East Africa with a total of 398 committed acts. Even when we look at the statistics by grouping them into larger regions, Africa as a whole ranks number two with the Far East well in front, 729 to 398 acts! And the Pirates of the Caribbean you say!! Nope, there appears to be so few attacks that the IMO even has to group the Caribbean with South America on occasion to show any respectable numbers at all! The South China Sea is crawling with Pirates!
So why all the commotion in regards to the Gulf of Aden? Well, for starters, the Gulf of Aden is just after the Suez, a major world shipping channel. The alternative would be a 30 day deviation past the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa! Also a big factor is the extent of ransoms, hijackings, assaults, disappearing ships, robberies and the army of pirates they come with! So how do the top 5 pirate-regions compare in these categories?
Well, if we look at IMO’s category named, ‘Actual Violence Used Against the Crew’, West Africa takes the lead. Almost 50% all all acts of piracy result in actual violence used against the crew. After that, the Malacca Straits take second place with 47% of all acts resulting in actual violence used against the crew. In fact, in East Africa only 19% of all acts result in actual violence used against the crew and that puts them in 5th place. Even when is comes to ships missing, East Africa is not number one! Only when it comes to hijacking does East Africa go off the charts. East Africa in terms of hijackings is almost 3.5 times that of second place, the Malacca Straits. The Malacca Straits ranks number one in guns & knives when attacking a vessel. But what are they all after? Well, pirates in the South China Sea appear to ransack the Master’s and crew accommodation (presumably for valuables) while pirates in West Africa shoot for the cargo. And in the Indian Sea? Well, in the Indian Sea it appears pirates are more interested in the ship’s stores. Only in East Africa is there a well balanced pirate attack on accommodation, cargo, and ship’s stores. Ransoms? I can’t see any data being released by IMO in their annual “REPORTS ON ACTS OF PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AGAINST SHIPS”!
So what we see on the news is a small portion of piracy but something for some reason draws the most attention – hijacking and the analogous ransoms (ah, money!). If it were violence we were worried about then there would be more policing in the Malacca Straits and if we really wanted to reduce overall piracy worldwide more attention would be given to the South China Sea. Piracy is not an endemic disease to the Gulf of Aden! Press – wake up!
* Data contained in the above report comes from, REPORTS ON ACTS OF PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AGAINST SHIPS, International Maritime Organization from annual reports between 2001 and 2007