The numbers of piracy have been rising since 2007 ? and it seems piracy may well soon expand from simple opportunistic, low-tech attacks to co-ordinated, higher technology hijacks.
Attacks in the region fell recently, mostly due to the monsoon season which brings high sea states. However, the numbers have been rising since 2007 ? and it seems piracy may well soon expand from simple opportunistic, low-tech attacks to co-ordinated, higher technology hijacks that take place further and further from shore. This is well funded by the money flowing in from ransoms.
While it was noted that the naval escorts have provided an invaluable service and the MSC (HOA) website has developed in clarity and usability, the naval presence is stretched thin - the area covers more than 2 million square kilometres.
It was also noted that quite understandably, the fabric of the cover sometimes acquires sudden holes as flag ships are called away to assist vessels of its own flag state. Since the situation on the sea looks like it will continue for quite some time (generally thought to be decades rather than years as it is being fuelled by the landside situation in Somalia), the common sense view is that the industry will have to learn to help itself.
Obviously, some vessels, particularly the "low and slow", are going to be more of a target than others. But there are things that can be done for a relatively low cost to harden the ships before transiting the area ? such as taking up ladders, simple shielding of vulnerable areas and planning a "citadel", which can keep the crew defended in as safe an area as possible, with the aim of keeping pirates locked out.
Combined with this, there is now a push to find non-lethal measures to stop the pirates, whose low boat profiles are not easy to spot amongst the numbers of fishing vessels in the area. Technology is racing ahead: since AIS identification can fairly easily be "spoofed" there are now a range of programmes that can bring a number of other identifications to light, and further, make the most of radar and similar warning devices.
Captain Roger MacDonald of the International Federation of Shipmasters" Associations explained that much technology is not being used to its full capability. "It is about getting the most of what you probably already have onboard", he explained, and added that a "fusion of data" that can be easily understood is the way forward. "There is a need for fast and clean information that crew can rely on," he said.
Further, a simple, practical resource is the Best Management Practice guide, available from BIMCO, which has just been updated.