The United States of America today said the challenge posed by piracy off the coast of Somalia is immense and represents a major threat to regional security and the global economy.
In his remarks on “Arms Control and International Security: Somali Piracy,” Assistant Secretary Andrew J. Shapiro said piracy is an issue in which the private sector, and the maritime industry in particular, are on the front lines.
“Commercial shipping vessels provide a constant stream of targets for Somali pirates.” -Mr. Shapiro
He cites that the world lives in an era of complex, integrated, and on-demand global supply chains.
People in countries around the world depend on secure and reliable shipping lanes for their medicine, their food, their energy, and consumer goods, Mr. Shapiro said.
He stresses that by preying on commercial ships in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, piracy off the Horn of Africa threatens more than just individual ships.
“Piracy threatens the life blood of the global economy, and therefore global security and stability.” -Mr. Shapiro
Over the years, thousands of crew members have been taken hostage and many in the maritime industry have lost their lives as a result of piracy.
Even as international action has been taken to address the challenge, the pirates seem undeterred.
Flush from the money made from ransom payments, pirate operations have become more sophisticated, Mr. Shapiro highlighted..
“Somali pirates now operate in a total sea space of approximately 2.5 million square nautical miles. To put that in context that’s roughly the size of the continental United States.” -Mr. Shapiro
He stresses that piracy is a threat that Obama Administration has been working hard to address.
The United States has pursued a multilateral and multi-dimensional approach that focuses on security, deterrence, diplomacy, and prevention.
Security has increased through U.S. and multi-national naval escorts and patrols, which continue to escort convoys of commercial ships and patrol high risk waters, according to Mr. Shapiro
Mr. Shapiro reports up to 30 vessels from as many as 20 nations conduct counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and beyond.
U.S. and international naval forces have thwarted pirate attacks in progress, engaged pirate skiffs and mother-ships, and successfully taken back hijacked ships during opposed boardings, he noted
The world has sought to deter piracy, through effective apprehension, prosecution and incarceration of pirates and their supporters and financiers.
Today, over 1,000 pirates are in custody in some 20 countries around the world, many of whom have been convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, Mr. Shapiro reported
However, Mr. Shapiro highlighted that it is not just countries in the region that recognize the problem.
The US government has also sought to rally the wider international community to address the problem posed by piracy.
Piracy continues to pose a severe threat to the maritime industry, global trade and therefore the entire global economy, Mr. Shapiro stressed.
He stresses that governments and industry will need to continue to work hand-in-glove to address this problem.
On 2010, 286 piracy-related incidents off the coast of Somalia were reported, resulting in 67 hijacked ships, with 1,130 seafarers on board; while a recent study estimated the cost to the world economy from disruptions to international trade at between $7 billion and $12 billion.