Piracy attacks have fallen for the first time in five years but the number of seafarers dying has tripled in the last two years, according to DP World chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem.
In his opening address at the Marine Counter-Piracy Conference in Dubai, Mr bin Sulayem welcomed the news that attacks on merchant shipping in the waters off Somalia had fallen for the first time in five years.
Last year saw 176 incidents but there have been around 30 incidents in the first six months of this year, and the pirates’ success rate halved from 28% in 2009 to 14% in 2011.
However, Mr bin Sulayem warned that violence is escalating. The number of seafarers killed in incidents relating to piracy has tripled from eight to 24 during the same two-year period.
Since 2007, 62 seafarers have died so far as a direct result of piracy in the waters off Somalia.
The first United Arab Emirates Counter-Piracy Conference advocated a public-private partnership. Although this has gained traction, Mr bin Sulayem said, the goal of “comprehensive, sustainable solutions to maritime piracy” has yet to be achieved.
Mr bin Sulayem told the conference that many measures proposed by the industry at the conference a year ago – including increased military presence, monitoring suspected pirate motherships and information-sharing – have been implemented.
However, he said he now wanted a higher level of collaboration from the public-private partnership.
“For its part, over the past four years the UAE has rolled out more than $25m of humanitarian and financial assistance in Somalia, with a focus on healthcare,” Mr bin Sulayem said.
“We at DP World have made good headway with our Roads project in partnership with local governments, Family Health International and the US Agency for International Development to build a network of clinics and vocational training centres and rest stops along major arteries linking ports with inland population centres in east Africa.”
Mr bin Sulayem said that the rise in ransoms over recent years had given piracy a more “sinister face”.
“Piracy’s destabilising impact can only be mitigated through collaboration across political, military, financial and legal arenas,” he said.
“The need of the hour is to explore new ways to secure the freedom of those held captive, curb the reach of the pirates, provide comprehensive support to Somalia and crystalise the unified stance created by our public-private partnership.”
The two-day conference is expected to conclude with a declaration outlining areas of private and public co-operation, covering various counter-piracy initiatives on land and at sea.