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Piracy Is Up, Threatening Global Shipping

Attacks by Somali pirates have spiked in recent months, piling on security concerns for shipping vessels and governments already grappling with continued Houthi terrorism in the Red Sea, CNBC reports.

What’s going on: “Over the past three months, there has been more piracy in the Horn of Africa region than at any point in the last six years according to Royal United Services Institute, an independent think tank, with high ransoms for seafarers or vessels, and robbing of ship passengers by pirates.”

  • Prior to the increase, such incidents off the Somalian coast had been on the decline.

Why it’s important: Piracy exacts a steep price on the global economy, costing it approximately $18 billion a year, according to a World Bank study cited by CNBC.

  • United Nations anti-piracy measures intended to ensure navigation freedom off the coast of Somalia expired in early 2022.
  • “Since last November, merchant vessels have been the target of about 20% of Somali piracy-related incidents, according to Dan Mueller, lead analyst for the Middle Eastern Region for maritime security firm Ambrey.”
  • “There were 120 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships reported in 2023, compared to 115 in 2022, according to the annual Piracy and Armed Robbery Report of the ICC International Maritime Bureau.”

Other areas of concern: There have also been slight increases in incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea off Africa’s West Coast and the Singapore Straits.

Security efforts: Private armed security teams, along with the use of Best Management Practice (BMP) 5, a set of anti-piracy guidelines, have “proven effective” in allowing ships’ crews to stay safe until military responses can be coordinated, an analyst source told the news outlet.

What the U.S. is doing: “In the Red Sea, the U.S. Navy is working with allies to increase efforts to prevent Houthi rebel attacks, which are continuing despite multiple U.S. airstrikes against Houthi targets.”

  • Earlier this month, the Biden administration approved a $3.99 billion sale of drones and other military equipment to India for maritime safety and surveillance.
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