As if you non-seafaring people out there needed convincing, the latest figures via The Times has piracy costing the global economy $12 billion a year. In the same week that Dutch marines kill two Somalia pirates, a London law firm that specialises in the field was quoted as saying “matters are deteriorating at every level”.
Whilst our sailing friends are well aware of the dangers of piracy, it’s not until one reads the numbers that the problem of piracy is put into perspective for the rest of us. It is truly a global concern that affects everyone. In a future post we’ll be putting together a couple of ideas as to how you can help support anti-piracy causes.
According to The Times:
Richard Neylon, who acted for the Chandlers, the British couple released last November after 13 months held by Somali pirates, said: “The number of crew and vessels captured is increasing, size of ransom is increasing and the length of time of capture is increasing.”
Mr Neylon, whose firm generally keeps a low profile, said in an interview that piracy was now a “major global concern” and that nowhere in the Indian Ocean was safe. The pirates had extended their reach from the Gulf of Aden and were thought to be costing the global economy pounds $12 billion a year.
Holman Fenwick Willan is one of the few London law firms that negotiate for the release of the vessels, and each one could have 20 hijacked ships on its books at any one time.
The firm has acted for shipowners and insurance brokers in about 70 hijack cases in the past few years and the workload is rising. In that time, the average period of capture has grown to six months, usually involving crew of 20-25 people held in horrific conditions.
Typically captives end up with a range of physical illnesses including skin diseases and malnourishment, as well as psychological trauma.
The owners’ options are limited: refuse to negotiate, which means losing a ship; negotiate but refuse to pay a ransom and perhaps send a priest or imam, which is unlikely to work; rely on military intervention but that risks death and damage to the vessel; or pay private military.
The latter brings problems of legality, compliance and the need to obtain arms, which does not go down well with shipowners.
That leaves the option of paying ransom.
Mr Neylon declines to discuss details of how negotiations are conducted but the law firms deal with a number of intermediaries, including military and intelligence sources as well as security companies.
More than 30,000 ships pass through the region a year and “everyone has to take precautionary measures at a cost of dollars 20,000-dollars 30,000 a ship. For the industry it is a huge problem.”
As for capturing the pirates, “where do you attempt to try them? Do you fly them back to the UK? Or, say, take them to Kenya or the Seychelles – where there is a large number awaiting trial already? Often, they are let go. This is not a deterrent.
“The coalition naval forces are doing all they can with limited resources, but the marine industry is demanding action from the international community.
Ultimately, the problem is that there are very poor people who have little else on offer who have found a way of making money.”
Mr Neylon welcomed the promise of extra funding. The money will improve surveillance and help Somalia, Kenya and Seychelles to prosecute offenders.
Source: The Times