A newly-released White Paper published by a maritime firm in the U.K. says that a shift in U.S. policy will likely lead to a resurgence of piracy East of the Suez and in the Indian Ocean within the next 18 months.
This report, published by Dryad Maritime, a maritime intelligence company dealing with piracy, terrorism and other maritime crimes and threats, should be of special interest to Mauritius, which has made maritime security a top priority and has agreed to detain and prosecute Somali pirates captured in Indian Ocean. Twelve Somalis charged with piracy were transferred to Mauritius last January and are still awaiting trial.
Published April 7, the White Paper says that the United States has shifted its foreign policy focus to the Asia-Pacific region and to Iran, and as a consequence, « it’s just a matter of time before western navies begin withdrawing warships that have been so successful in suppressing piracy off the Somali coast. » Also driving this trend are new developments in U.S. energy production. With America expected to become a net exporter of energy for the first time by 2020, the United States will have less interest in Gulf oil or threats to its supply, the report said.
Although piracy hit its lowest level in six years in 2013, due largely to the presence of NATO and European Union navies, the piracy threat still persists because Somalia remains « largely a lawless and ungoverned space, » the report said.
David Hunkin, Dryad Maritime’s Commercial Director, predicts that withdrawal of these warships form the area would leave commercial vessels transiting Africa’s eastern coast vulnurable to hijacks. »With no convoys and no rescue forces, the commercial shipping industry could be left to fend for itself, » according to Dryad.
He said governments and international policymakers have about 18 months to develop methods to deal with the void in protection once the warships leave and protect the international shipping lanes from pirate attacks. Many commercial shipping lines have already taken their own security measures by deploying armed security agents to watch over the ship and crew. But Dryad advises caution in ramping up private security forces. « The private maritime security became the new gold rush for former soldiers frustred with earnings dwindling in both Iraq and Afghanistan, » Dryad said. « But most lack the experience and skills required to solve this complex multi-dimensional maritime problem. »
Maritime security off the coast of Africa continues to be a top concern for both the European Union, the United States and Africa. Earlier this month, EU security officials held a meeting in Brussels to examine maritime threats to Africa. Mauritius was one of the participating countries.
Mauritian industry has been affected by piracy, as the country’s imports and exports move by ships that travel areas frequented by pirates. Shipping costs have increased because maritime companies must pay more for security and insurance premiums.