Location of Maritime Piracy Attacks
The thought that pirate attacks still occur frequently in our modern society is a shocking and confusing one for many. However, for those in maritime industries, pirate attacks are a very serious and very troublesome reality. Statistics estimate that approximately 2,500 pirate attacks have occurred worldwide in the last 6 years since 2006. While worldwide efforts have been successful in reducing the frequency of such attacks, vessel pirating attempts are still made—more in some parts of the waters than others.
In order to promote safe and informed sailing, maritime employees and passengers should take special caution when traveling through certain bodies of water. A review of the most recent and most violent attacks of this decade establishes that West African waters and Somali territories are among the most dangerous regions to travel concerning the presence of pirate vessels. Other at-risk regions around the world include portions of Southeast Asia and Indian subcontinents.
West Africa and the Gulf of Aden
On the issue of modern day maritime piracy, no region is more feared and scrutinized than the seas of West Africa. Pirate attacks in these regions are often violent and brutal, claiming enough attention to prompt the production of award-winning replicas in western cinema. Although the waters are in constant danger, attacks have decreased significantly in just the last three years.
Ever since the notorious attack of the Maersk Alabama, captained by the surviving hostage Richard Phillips off the coast of Somalia in April 2009, attempts to hijack vessels have become less frequent. According to estimates, there were 445 pirate attacks in 2010 and only 143 in 2013—demonstrating the success of patrol and enforcement efforts. Regardless of these efforts, the risk still remains significant for seafarers. The waters of West Africa and the Gulf of Aden are the most dangerous to travel for vessels carrying oil, equipment, and any valuable cargo.
The most notable regions for maritime piracy include:
- Benin & Nigeria: While attacks have decreased, the possibility still remains. Pirates in these regions are well armed, lacking the hesitation to use force. Attacks can be attempted both at anchorages and off the coast, with the hijacking lasting days before the vessel can be fully looted.
- The Gulf of Aden: Flowing between the southern shores of Yemen and the northeast portion of Somalia, the Gulf of Aden has historically been a location of great concern. Pirate attacks in the past have been violent and even deadly. However, due to notable efforts by anti-piracy operations and military measures, the attacks have, again, dropped significantly.
- Somalia: With these waters being mixed with those of the Gulf of Aden, the same military operations that have decreased piracy in the Gulf have been successful in this region as well. However, Somalia is perhaps the most dangerous and most widely known location of maritime piracy attacks in the modern day marine industry.
Southeast Asia and India
While piracy is not a public point of concern in this region, the presence of pirate vessels on the waters surrounding these parts is not unheard of. Because several attacks have taken place in the last 10 years, authorities constantly warn and urge vessels to take extra precautions when traveling the waters south of India, especially including:
- Malacca Straits
- Singapore Straits
Because of diligent patrols and control efforts, attempted pirate attacks in these regions have decreased significantly and violence has all but ceased. Due to increased patrol presence on the waters, most pirate attacks around Southeast Asia are attempted after dark and usually aborted if the victimized vessel sounds off an alarm. However, pirate groups are still unpredictable and mariners are constantly encouraged to exercise caution at all times.
Unfortunately, it has taken several serious attacks for national and international authorities to recognize the real risk of pirate attacks in modern maritime operations. This realization has led to several successful anti-piracy efforts and an update in detection and assessment of piracy risk.
While risks have decreased, mariners are constantly encouraged to practice caution and to utilize reporting mechanisms to avoid and deter possible attacks in these and other regions.