RiskMap Maritime 2014: Piracy, terrorism and diverse maritime threats in the year ahead
From Piracy-studies.org by Brandon Prins
(March 2014) created from www.controlrisks.com material
Southeast Asia once dominated the landscape of maritime piracy.
1999 to 2004 Indonesia experienced nearly 100 pirate attacks per year.
But just as piracy was receding in and around the Malacca Straits,
attacks in the Gulfs of Guinea and Aden were on the rise.
and especially hijackings exploded in the Greater Gulf of Aden after
Piracy incidents, 2005-2013 (IMB)
In a recent report
for the Office of Naval Research in the United States, Brandon Prins
examines trends in maritime piracy in Sub-Saharan Africa.
collected and geo-coded data from the Maritime Piracy Event and Location Data Project
(MPELD) Brandon Prins documents both the drivers of piracy in
Sub-Saharan Africa and compares piracy to other forms of political
violence witnessed in this region.
He notes that given the tremendous
social and political conflict occurring in many piracy prone countries
in Sub-Saharan Africa, counter-piracy efforts at sea will likely fail.
Table 1: Sub-Saharan African Maritime Piracy Counts by Year
Table 1 above provides a short temporal window of piracy attacks in nine
Sub-Saharan African countries. Clearly East Africa, specifically
Somalia and Tanzania, and West Africa, including Nigeria in particular
but other countries in the Gulf of Guinea as well, account for the vast
majority of piracy observed.
Table 1 also shows the dramatic decrease in
piracy off Somalia beginning in 2013 and the sizable increase in the
Gulf of Guinea that began in 2012.
Incidents ascribed to Togo may of
course be Nigerian pirates attacking transport ships as they steam
towards the oil fields and platforms located in the Niger Delta.
in 2014 there are twelve reported piracy incidents in Nigerian waters
(but another 17 in the Greater Gulf of Guinea), which is slightly below
the number of incidents reported in 2012 and 2013 for the same first
eight months of the year.
Interestingly, and perhaps worryingly, the
number of incidents reported off of Somalia and Yemen in 2014 now stands
at 9 (through September 17, 2014) with another 3 occurring in the Red
This remains considerably fewer than the incidents observed in 2012
off Somalia (and Yemen) but is more than the total number of incidents
from all of 2013.
So piracy may be increasing once again off Somalia.
Many of the drivers of maritime piracy are strong in Sub-Saharan African
Extant research shows state fragility, economic deprivation,
population, and geographic opportunity all related to the incidence of
piracy in territorial waters.
Similar to the growth of armed
insurgencies, political and economic conditions help facilitate
corruption and criminality, both of which enable piracy. Indeed,
countries that suffer from piracy experience much higher levels of
Table 2: Country-level Information
The Center for Systemic Peace (CSP) measures
political weakness using an ordinal scale ranging from one to
twenty-five, with higher values signifying increasingly fragile states
(see Table 2).
The average fragility score for the nine Sub-Saharan
countries examined in this report (averaged across the 2009-2013 time
period) is 16.8, which is 2.5 times higher than countries without
The average fragility score for countries without piracy during
the 2009-2013 time period is 6.6. Somalia, with an average score of 24,
represents the closest thing to a failed state in the international
The political improvement Somalia witnessed from 2011 to 2012
(and likely into 2013 although the data for 2013 are not yet available)
appears to have helped counter-piracy efforts in the Greater Gulf of
Given that trade in the greater Gulf of Aden is valued at nearly
one trillion US dollars a year, it is clear why would-be pirates
gravitate toward these waters.
Further, Somalia despite having only five
deep-sea ports, sits only five kilometers from where the Red Sea
empties into the Gulf of Aden, and approximately twenty thousand ships
transit through the Greater Gulf of Aden each year.
represent in many cases easy targets for would-be pirates.
Maritime risk is not a new phenomenon.
For centuries, maritime operators have sought to successfully overcome the challenges of geography, climate and technology in order to facilitate travel, trade and the quest for resources.
Nevertheless, in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, both the probability and impact of events is magnified.
Tom Patterson, head of maritime analysis for Control Risks takes an in-depth look at some of the key issues featured in Maritime RiskMap 2014.
Economic deprivation within countries also helps to facilitate piracy
and illegal markets more generally.
Unemployed youth (especially males)
provide the foot soldiers both for insurgencies and pirate gangs.
average per capita gross domestic product for our nine Sub-Saharan
African countries (averaged across the 2009-2013 time period) is only
about $600 US dollars.
The average value for countries without piracy is
nearly 28 times higher, at $17,753.
As Table 2 demonstrates, some of
the most piracy-prone countries remain some of the poorest places on
Somalia had an average per capita GDP in 2009-2013 of only $562.
Nigeria was slightly higher at $1,013.
Such entrenched and deep poverty
poses significant challenges for any counter-piracy efforts. Convincing
individual fishers or farmers to forego the opportunity of a lucrative
payoff (typically several thousand US dollars) remains difficult when
there are few employment alternatives.
And, monies from pirate
operations tend to depress job growth in the legal economy.
with cash from piracy leading to the appreciation in the value of the
local currency, which tends to decrease primary commodity exports
(Oliver, Jabloski, and Hastings 2013).
Efforts to increase wages and job
growth in piracy-prone countries must be part of an effective
Figure 2: Comparing Piracy, Conflict, and Terrorism Events
in 9 Sub-Saharan African Countries, 2004-2013
Many of the same drivers of maritime piracy also associate with other
forms of violent conflict on land.
The Armed Conflict Location and
Event dataset (ACLED) as well as the Social Conflict in Africa database
(SCAD) both record instances of political and typically violent conflict
occurring on the ground in Africa.
The Global Terrorism database (GTD)
collects information on transnational and domestic terror attacks
occurring in all countries around the world.
As Figure 2 clearly shows,
piracy represents only a small fraction of this violent political
conflict, but even these relatively small numbers have costly
consequences on international trade
The Oceans Beyond Piracy
estimated the costs of Somali piracy in 2012 alone to be around $6
Of course, the illicit gains from piracy also drive
trade in narcotics, weapons, and human slavery. Combatting these
proscribed activities reduces the public coffers of already poor
countries and consequently prevents investments in other areas that
might spur development, reduce poverty, and improve public health (all
of which would likely help drive piracy lower).
programs seemingly cost billions of US dollars each year since the
modest counter-piracy military operations in the Greater Gulf of Aden
cost over 1 billion US dollars in 2012 (Oceans Beyond Piracy 2013).
Although pirate attacks dropped dramatically off the coast of Somalia in
2013, they increased significantly in the Gulf of Guinea.
Counter-piracy naval operations and improved security onboard ships
likely contributed to the decline in the greater Gulf of Aden.
strengthening in Somali governing institutions also likely had an effect
even as armed conflict continued to create difficulties for the new
In the Gulf of Guinea, a deteriorating security environment and
continued fragility in many West African governments provided space for
pirate groups to operate.
In Nigeria, for example, the number of
conflict events on land increased by over 200% from 2011 to 2013 and the
number of terrorist attacks jumped by nearly 250% from 2011 to 2012.
Political violence was also on the rise in Togo, Ghana, the Ivory Coast
and the DRC.
Although West African leaders met during the summer of 2013
to plan an assault on piracy and pirate groups, insufficient resources
and too few naval patrol craft will likely hamper their efforts.
Permitting foreign-armed guards on merchant vessels transiting Nigerian
waters may be a next step in countering this maritime threat.
though, conditions on land must improve before the piracy threat will
Weak states, joblessness, and abundant targets currently
ensure that piracy will continue.