It is the improvement of conditions on land, linked to widescale efforts of governments, rather than the use of armed guards, that has contributed most significantly to “pushing the statistics on Somalia in the right direction”, according to Lloyd’s Market Association head of underwriting Neil Smith.
Mr Smith was addressing a US senators’ committee hearing entitled Update on Efforts to Combat Piracy on April 10.
He did however note that the use of armed guards had helped reduce the number of attacks, and told the committee that collaboration between the commercial sector and the broad range of government agencies and the military had been a significant factor in the decline in piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia.
Speaking to the US House of Representatives’ Sub-committee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Mr Smith said the lessons of governmental co-operation learned in Somalia could well be applied to other piracy hotspots – either now or in the future.
Mr Smith said Somali pirates had introduced a different method of operation. “The traditional model took the vessel and the cargo, but the Somali game changer has been the recognition that the crew is a valuable asset for ransom,” he said.
“This is a marine version of kidnap and ransom activity, rather than what we would traditionally regard as pirate activity. This leaves us with a number of longer-term questions about how the maritime community approach some of these traditional areas of cover.”
While piracy in the Gulf of Aden is in decline, the recent trend of attacks on vessels moving oil offshore in the Gulf of Guinea has been well documented.
Mr Smith said these incidents looked, at this stage, to be a return to the more traditional model of piracy, with organised theft of portable goods from the ships and transhipment theft of the oil cargoes.
He added: “The insurance sector is monitoring developments closely, and it is a further example of why, even though the situation in Somalia looks to be improving, the international maritime community cannot afford to relax its efforts to reduce the threat of piracy.”