Shippers have paid $110m in ransom this year

Sunday November 06 2011

Ransom payments paid by shipping companies to Somali pirates have reached nearly $110 million this year — a 37 per cent jump in two years — despite the increasing success of international naval forces in preventing pirate attacks.

According to Rear Admiral Christian Canova of the European Naval Task Force (EUNavFor) operating off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, there were only 10 ships and 247 seafarers being held hostage in mid October compared with double the number of vessels a year ago.

The International Maritime Bureau has confirmed the increasing success of the navy saying that of the 199 attacks on vessels in the first nine months of this year, only 24 had been successful.

“Somali pirates are finding it harder to hijack ships and get the ransom they ask for,” said IMB director Captain Pottengal Mukundan.
But the result is that pirates are demanding ever higher ransom payments for the seafarers they capture.

Rear Admiral Canova also told the European Parliament that the failure to agree on a set policy on Somali pirates was hampering future operations. He cited the example of the fact that EUNavFor surveillance aircraft had identified pirate camps along the Somali coastline prior to the end of the monsoon season.

But due to “disagreement” among EU member states and Nato members regarding the use of force against pirates onshore, no military action was taken against those bases.


This is an issue that infuriates international trade unions, with Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson saying that if an agreed policy was not made then seafarers would boycott the entire Somali coast.

“At what point would it be considered reckless to send seafarers into the high risk area,” he asked.

“Why do military forces not take out the pirate bases ashore and attack their business model? Lots of questions (but) no simple answers.”

There are also concerns that with cutbacks in military spending in Western countries that naval resources will be shifted from the Gulf. Some warships used for piracy patrols were recently switched to the Mediterranean to support operations in Libya and naval experts say that most Western navies are too tightly stretched.

The UK Foreign office minister Henry Bellingham says that Britain supports the use of private armed security teams on ships providing they are properly regulated.

He also said that it was a “fallacy” that pirates are not being prosecuted or imprisoned.

The minister said that more than 1,000 Somali pirates were currently being held in custody in over 20 countries, including three pirate leaders and financiers.