'The State of Maritime Piracy 2016 – Assessing the Human and Economic Cost'
Oceans Beyond Piracy
London, UK - May 3rd
Jessica K Simonds BA (Hons) MA
Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) as a program of the One Earth Future Foundation launched their annual report entitled ‘The State of Maritime Piracy 2016 – Assessing the Human and Economic Cost’ on the 3rd May 2017 at the UK Chamber of Shipping in London UK. This report will outline the event proceedings, summarize the keynote speeches as well as the two panel discussions.
The event was opened by Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent a senior fellow of Oceans Beyond Piracy who welcomed the delegates, outlined the importance of the report in the modern context of maritime security and welcomed the keynote speaker Barry Faure, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Seychelles. Faure’s keynote speech embodied the importance of maintaining a positive state of maritime security for the Seychelles as a nation of islands.
The report was presented to the conference by the lead authors Dirk Siebels and Masie Pigeon of Oceans Beyond Piracy. The full report can be found here. It is important to note that the report covers the impacts of piracy for the year 2016 and does not include the recent surge in piratical experiences in 2017. The the two most notable trends in the report include the increase in the use of kidnap for ransom which has risen from 13 incidents in 2015 to 18 incidents in 2016 and that the economic cost of Somali piracy has defied its five year downward trend and risen from $1.3 Billion in 2015 to $1.7 Billion in 2016.
The first panel discussion was lead by Masie Pigeon of Oceans Beyond Piracy, Eric Frecon, Assistant Professor at the French Naval Academy and Richard Neylon of Holman Fenwick Willan LLP. The panel discussed the use of kidnap for ransom as a prominent and rapidly developing piratical business model. A prominent element of this discussion was the issues surrounding paying ransoms to piracy groups who are part of terrorist organizations as this poses a legal challenge in terms of funding proscribed organizations. There was also speculation surrounding how groups engaged in conflict in Yemen will profit from piracy and blur the lines between piracy as a criminal or terrorist threat.
The second panel discussion was lead by Col Richard Cantrill, EUNAVFOR Chief of Staff, Dr. Curtis Bell, One Earth Future and John Steed of Oceans Beyond Piracy. The theme of this discussion was maritime security in the Horn of Africa. This session allowed for a discussion on the recent piracy attacks that have occurred in the region. Col Cantrill suggested that the current situation is ‘on a knife edge’ as attacks have been based on opportunity - yet as there are less naval forces dedicated to counter piracy only time will tell whether this means that there is an increase in capability. The rest of the panel also suggested that the criminal model of piracy has become adaptive but is still based on a recruitment strategy based on targeting vulnerable men in an impoverished situation. It was conveyed that for the spike in recent piracy attacks to cease, ships will need to adhere to best management practices, stop taking short cuts and not sail too close to the shore. There are also a number of short term and long term measures that will suppress the threat. These include naval protection, armed security teams, rule of law, legal finish and arrests, regional capacity building, prosecution and imprisonment.
This author believes the most prominent areas of concern to arise at the conference are are the reduction of capabilities when dealing with the terrorist element of piracy as well as the reluctance of some seafarers in adhering to best management practices and appropriate deterrence measures in the region.