Pirate attack 'marks start of post-monsoon operations'


The first confirmed attack in the Arabian Sea this week is a sign that pirates have awoken from hibernation to launch their long-range, mothership-enabled operations, according to shipping intelligence agency Dryad Maritime.

Despite an unprecedented downturn over the last three months, Dryad Maritime predicted that the end of the south-west monsoon season would see the resumption of pirate attacks.

The first attack of the pirate season came on Monday, when an Omani dhow was attacked near the port of Salalah.

Dryad Maritime Director of Intelligence Ian Millen said: “Somali pirates are not out of business, even if times are hard when compared to the success of earlier years. The pirate business has suffered a few setbacks, but the threat remains a very real one; the capability is intact and the motivation of those engaged is unlikely to have been diminished to the point of defeat.

“The message is clear — complacency is the greatest threat and constant vigilance, the greatest weapon in the fight against Somali pirates.”

Over recent weeks, wind speeds and wave heights across the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea have fallen, heralding the approach of the inter-monsoon period. This will create the optimum conditions for pirates to test the water further afield, no longer constrained by adverse weather conditions, according to Dryad Maritime.

The US Navy recently issued a report that showed acts of piracy around the Horn of Africa had fallen sharply. This was supported by a similar paper issued by the International Maritime Bureau.

Only 46 pirate attacks occurred in the area in 2012 compared with 222 in 2011 and 239 in 2010. Only nine of the piracy attempts this year have been successful, a significant decrease set against 34 successful attacks in 2011 and 68 in 2010.

“In the face of such figures, we could be forgiven for thinking that it is ‘game over’ for Somali pirates, beaten into submission by coalition maritime forces and frustrated by the layered defence of predictive intelligence, armed guards and effective physical protection,” said Millen.

“To do so, however, would be a big mistake because so little has changed when viewed through the eyes of the maritime criminals in question.”

Dryad said the sea-change was largely attributed to both aggressive patrolling by international forces and increased vigilance by the commercial shipping industry.

Commercial vessels were increasingly carrying armed security teams and no vessel with such a team on board has yet been hijacked. There have been no successful pirate attacks on large merchant vessels since May and none attempted since the end of June.

However, Dryad Maritime warned that optimism must be tempered. Piracy remained rife in the waters around Somalia, meaning that the most popular and natural route for recreational sailors was still firmly off limits and all cruising sailors were still advised in the strongest possible terms to avoid the northwestern Indian Ocean.

Based on the changing trends, Dryad said a transiting yacht might appear a far more attractive target than a commercial vessel. The firm added that despite the interventions of international naval forces, pirates would still manage to go to sea and evade military patrols in the area.