Somali pirates are widening the area in which they operate and there may be evidence that they employing patterns of attack.
US Bureau of Political-Military Affairs assistant secretary Andrew Shapiro says Somali pirates now operate across 2.5m square nautical miles of ocean — equivalent to the size of the continental US — adding that attacks have extended to the waters off the coast of India.
“This increase makes it difficult for naval or law enforcement ships and other assets to reach the scene of a pirate attack quickly enough to disrupt an ongoing attack,” he said. “There is just too much water to patrol.”
Furthermore, acts of piracy have been reported near the Maldives Exclusive Economic Zone, after the first hijack took place in the country’s waters last week.
The Bolivia-flagged Eglantinewas hijacked this week 190 nautical miles northwest of Hoarafushi Island with 23 crew on board.
If piracy is spreading, as the evidence suggests, then understanding the patterns pirates adopt could be crucial.
Risto Talas, lecturer in maritime security risk and management at the Logistics Institute at Hull University and Michael Frodl, founder and head of C-Level Maritime Risks, have been researching the patterns of pirate attacks.
The final results will be published later this spring. However, preliminary results have identified three notable patterns.
Dr Talas said the first, termed “a drifter” scenario, involved one boat making a series of attacks not far from the internationally recognised transit corridor.
“The pirates chose to attack vessels of a similar draft and operating speed, but were unsuccessful on each occasion,” he said.
“However, what is of interest is the short distance between the two extremities: a mere 30.7 nautical miles, travelling on average just 3.4 nautical miles per day.”
The second pattern Dr Talas observed also took place near the corridor and involved three pirate boats collaborating, possibly in a pre-determined fashion, to confuse Navy forces.
A final pattern has been detected north of the Bab al-Mandeb strait — literally, the Gate of Grief — that separates Yemen and Djibouti. Here, attacks appeared to take place along a straight line that runs northwest to southeast.
Dr Talas said the pattern of the attacks suggested pirates operate along a transport corridor similar to that used by the people smugglers who used to attack private yachts between 1999 and 2005 along a corridor between Bosasso in north Somaliland and Al Mukalla on Yemen’s Indian Ocean coast.
The study, due to be published later this year, will also look at motherships in more detail. Dr Talas said he hoped the research would improve understanding of piracy and the risks that ships face.