Bank counts costs of piracy

Editorial, Normal

The National, Friday 12th April, 2013

 ENDING Somali piracy requires a shift from reliance on security at sea to targeting those on land who enable the lucrative business to thrive, according to the World Bank.

Although the number of attacks has markedly fallen since 2011 because of tougher security aboard ships and increased Western naval patrols, piracy emanating from the lawless Horn of Africa nation may still cost the world economy about US$18 billion a year, the bank said in a report released yesterday.

Pirates operate far beyond Somalia’s waters, disrupting shipping on global routes in the Indian Ocean and into the Red Sea. Since the first reported hijacking in 2005, 149 ships have been seized, raising total ransoms of US$315 million-US$385 million.

That is a fraction of the amount the World Bank report estimates it costs the world economy from distortions to trade prompted by piracy. 

But the costs of naval operations, guards on ships, higher insurance and other factors run into billions of dollars.

Talk among donors of offering alternative livelihoods to pirates have had little impact.

One expert said a pirate who can earn US$5,000 in a night’s work capturing a ship will not be tempted by fishing classes giving him skills that may earn just a few dollars a day.

“Somalia cannot buy its way out of piracy; nor can the international community rely solely on its law enforcement agencies to defeat pirates, whether at sea or on land,” the World Bank said in its study.

Pirates rely on support onshore to conduct negotiations and to secure locations from where they can operate. “In turn, politically powerful figures capture large portions of the profits associated with piracy,” the report said.

“Any solution therefore will involve forging a political contract with local stakeholders — a shift in attention, in other words, from the perpetrators to the enablers of piracy.”

Alan Cole, regional coordinator for the counter-piracy programme of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Nairobi, said targeting those funding piracy was only one part of the response. – Reuters