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Maritime piracy: the economic cost should not overshadow the human cost

Contributor – Richard de Silva

image: Dutch MoD

I was recently invited to the launch of a new study at Chatham House, hosted by the One Earth Future Foundation, in which efforts have been made to account for the human impact of piracy in Somali waters over the past year.

While I was unable to attend on the day, I was kindly sent the findings of this report, which included notable points of interest including thousands of instances of firearm and RPG use, as well as a reported 1090 recorded cases of hostage-takings, 516 of these used as human shields.

Previously, OEFF had also conducted a study on the economic impact of piracy worldwide, valued at a staggering $7-12 billion. While much reported, there seems to be a significant unbalance between the deeper danger that piracy represents to many civilian seafarers and the overall and the potential losses in profit from firms and other services held to ransom by pirates, much in the way that the media attention on Somalia has taken the spotlight away from other volatile areas including the Gulf of Guinea and the coast of Venezuela.

It is difficult to measure how much impact a piracy incident can have on a single life, let alone each and every life, yet given the research provided by the OEFF and other non-profit groups, government forces worldwide should lay the evidence on the table alongside the monetary reports.

Piracy is a worldwide problem, but it is also an historical problem, with historical solutions, and with a world-sized wealth of modern experience and technology being invested into deterrents, at present. If more effort is made by the international community to share both fundamental solutions to the catalysts, as well as proven security measures to combat the threat, the figures from both OEFF reports are more likely to fall and fall rapidly.

From a defence perspective, we have found that leading the charge to do just that includes a globally increasing investment into Offshore Patrol Vessels and maritime-based ISR platforms and techniques. Keen to put the first step forward to this mass-sharing of information, research and case studies, readers can access all papers in our newly updated Counter Piracy Library, while we get the ball rolling on bringing together international militaries.

Among them already confirmed to attend our upcoming summer events include Vice Admiral O. S Ibrahim of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Francisco Roberto Deiana of the Brazilian Navy, and Group Captain Paul Atkinson of NATO Maritime Command Northwood.

Defence IQ would like to thank all those involved in this ongoing research for continuing to highlight the need for action.


One response to “Maritime piracy: the economic cost should not overshadow the human cost

  1. Air Commodore DJ Otaru December 28, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Very informative write up. Will be intersted in updates

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