“The issue for Somali piracy is the barrier to entry is extremely low,” Hans Tino Hansen, md of Risk Intelligence, told a Maritime Crime seminar a part of Danish Maritime Days in Copenhagen.
“Those who say it's the armed guards that have changed the whole picture I don’t think they really understand what has been going on with Somalia onshore or actually in the naval cooperation at an international level,”
He explained that what had happened was in relative terms “a very improved security situation” in Somalia, compared to 2006 – 2008 when the situation was much worse. At the same time as security improved onshore the risk in undertaking pirate attacks increased sharply due to the international naval presence, so those who had invested in piracy moved into shore based businesses, which offered a higher yield with less risk.
“A lot of money that was previously invested into piracy operations was invested in hotels, restaurants, gas stations and internal transportation,” Hansen said.
The international naval commitment is expected to be similar in 2015 to this year, although great reduced from 2011.
He said industry mitigation measures will also be reduced, such as less armed guards, or removing them completely. “Our main worry is ships that have relied too much on armed guards will have forgotten the procedures so we are actually back to a 2007 situation.”
Looking beyond 2015 said the potential for a resurgence in piracy remained as the intention and capability remained. “It might look like from the statistics the situation is gone, but it is lying low down there and it might again rise unless we can deal with the root causes,” Hansen warned.
Industry official agreed that piracy could return off Somalia. Peter Hinchliffe, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, said they were concerned to see passage plans that took ships ever closer to the Somali coast even though there were still Piracy Action Groups (PAGs) heading out to sea.
“In Somalia we have an uneasy stand off,” he said, and warned that there could be a resurgence in hijacking.
Jan Fritz Hansen, representing both the Danish Shipowners’ Association and the European Community Shipowners’ Association, said the problems in East Africa had not been solved, but it had been made quite secure, “and now we have to stick with that for some years to come”.