Piracy off the Somalian coast became a serious concern in 2007 and the threat continued to grow until a sharp decline in activity in 2012. During 2008 and 2009 it was estimated that annual earnings were approximately USD100 million. The Oceans Beyond Piracy organisation estimated the total figure for ransoms paid in 2010 as USD 238 m and the total cost to the world economy in the range of USD 7 bn to USD 12 bn. The estimated cost was scaled down for 2012 to between USD 5.7 bn. to USD 6.1 bn.
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre statistics show that 2010 was the worst year on record, with Somali pirates responsible for 219 attacks and 49 hijackings, with a total of 1016 crew detained and eight deaths. Increased naval presence and better crew preparedness caused the pirates to expand over a greater area with back-up from mother vessels and also to a greater readiness to use weapons, including RPGs.
The presence of forty or more naval vessels was undoubtedly an important factor and meant that pirates could not act with complete impunity. However the forces have a vast area to police. Somalia has a 3,000 km coastline and, with some 22,000 ships transiting the Gulf of Aden each year, there is a huge number of ships to monitor.
Pirates have a simple but adaptable methodology and have steadily extended their area of operation well into the Indian Ocean and South towards Madagascar. No ships are immune. For example, ships en route from the Far East for the Arabian Gulf are susceptible to attack. This means that more ships must take precautions and lengthens the time for which crew must remain in a state of readiness, increasing the burden on seafarers. Ships attacked well away from the concentration of naval forces in GoA cannot count on rapid military assistance.
However, greater onboard preparedness and intervention by naval forces has led to a dramatic decline in the number of attacks in 2012 and 2013. Nonetheless shipping will need to live with the risk of piracy for the foreseeable future as the only entirely effective remedy is action by littoral states.
Although the majority view in the industry was against the use of armed guards, the escalation in violence led to their widespread use. See Section on armed guards for further information.
Owners are encouraged to report all attacks regardless of location to the IMB reporting Centre on www.icc-ccs.org as it seems that many incidents go unreported.