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25 June, 2024
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Resurging piracy threatens Red Sea shipping lanes

Recent attacks by Somali pirates signal renewed concerns for maritime security

Andreas Karamitas

Piracy is re-emerging in the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa with alarming speed, endangering both the lives of crew members and the smooth flow of international trade. Somali pirates, seizing the opportunity amidst naval forces' focus on the Houthi crisis, have returned to the scene, instilling fear and uncertainty in the region.

The "Abdullah" Incident

The 58,000-ton cargo ship "Abdullah" fell victim to a pirate attack off Mogadishu. Pirates boarded the vessel, threatening the 20-man crew with death unless their demanded ransom was met. Audio messages from crew members to their families depict the harrowing ordeal. "Abdullah," en route to Dubai from Mozambique, lacked a private armed guard and evasive maneuvers, leaving the crew vulnerable to the ruthless pirates. Unfortunately, the "Abdullah" incident is not isolated. The Maritime Safety Centre in the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) reported six confirmed piracy cases and three attempts in recent months. The tankers "Central Park" and "Ruen" were seized until being released by US and Indian forces, respectively. The "Lila Norfolk" and "Waimea" repelled piracy attempts with exchanged gunfire.

Immediate Action Required

With naval forces occupied with the Houthi crisis, the responsibility of ship protection falls on owners and managers. Security company Ambrey highlights the vulnerability of vessels like "Abdullah" due to inadequate security measures. The absence of private armed guards, evasive maneuvers, and deterrents like barbed wire or water hoses make ships easy targets for pirates. Despite the dire situation, "Abdullah" crew members remain safe. Meherul Karim, Managing Director of SR Shipping, assures the company's relentless efforts to negotiate with pirates for the crew's prompt and safe release.

History of Piracy in the Area

Piracy in the Red Sea and Horn of Africa region isn't new. For decades, the region has grappled with pirate attacks, jeopardizing lives and trade. The 2000s saw a surge in piracy, as Somali pirates exploited Somalia's political instability and maritime policing deficiencies. In 2008, 131 piracy incidents were recorded, resulting in 410 sailors kidnapped and 12 ships under pirate control.

International Response and Reduction

The piracy spike prompted an international response, deploying multinational naval forces and adopting stricter security measures. Over time, efforts yielded results, significantly reducing piracy incidents. However, progress seems fleeting, with recent years witnessing an uptick in incidents, with 120 cases recorded in 2023.

Cooperation for Constant Vigilance

Piracy remains a serious threat to international shipping and crew safety. The recent surge underscores the need for continuous vigilance and cooperation at all levels. Governments, international organizations, shipowners, and managers must collaborate to combat piracy effectively, strengthen maritime policing, adopt stricter security measures, and address root causes such as poverty and instability. Utilizing new technologies can further enhance security efforts.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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