Okay, GoAGT might be attempting to drum up a little business, but its point is well made. Somali pirates have shifted their attacks to areas in which coverage by naval forces has been weak or non-existent and to locales where the perceived need for shipboard armed security teams has also been low. It is logical that the pirates might shift to a sea lane which, as yet, has not been bothered by pirate attacks.
NATO has issued an alert saying that a merchant vessel was attacked yesterday (8 February 2012) and is suspected to have been hijacked. At 14h38 UTC the vessel was in position 13 32 N 058 36 E.
Red arrow points to referenced 8 Feb attack***
The hijacking comes on the same day that a maritime security company whose services include the provision of armed guards on ships warns of “a critical shift in pirate focus.”GoAGT (Gulf of Aden Group Transits) said on Thursday that over the past week it has received first-hand information from sources indicating that several Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) have begun to focus operations in a new regional area. These sightings suggest that pirates are targeting the Cape to Arabian Gulf shipping lane.“There is a potential for PAGs to move east and endanger shipping along the Cape to Malacca route,” added GoAGT. “Shipping along these routes are vulnerable as many vessels are not hardened against piracy, and do not carry armed guards. This is due to these routes being outside of the traditional High Risk Area (HRA).”
GoAGT says the activity east of the Seychelles is “likely motivated by the search for unprepared shipping. The operational range for PAGs has greatly increased due to the use of mothership vessels, which allow for extended operations at sea. It is also possible that PAGs can extend operations south of the Maldives.” “On 6 February,” says GoAGT, “a merchant vessel was approached by two skiffs in the central Indian Ocean Region at position 05°03'N 066°07'E. On 8 February, a second merchant vessel was attacked at position 04°18'S 059°59'E by a skiff with five pirates on board (POB). The distance between these attacks suggests that several PAGs are now operating in this area. “With the extensive concentration of anti-piracy measures in the Northern Indian Ocean, it is increasingly likely PAGs will attempt to target new areas to take advantage of unprotected shipping lanes,” warns GoAGT.
"Mothership" dhow?***Nato said piracy activities have been recently reported in the Indian Ocean in vicinity of the Seychelles Islands and warned that approaches occurred on 28 January north of the Seychelles Islands in position 0455N 05814E and on 6 February east of the Seychelles Islands in the position of 0503S 06607E. “Masters are advised to proceed through these areas with extreme caution, and be advised that the PAG (Pirate Attack Group) responsible for the recent approaches (NSC4) in the Indian Ocean is still believe to be in the area.”
What virginal sea lanes that are within the potential reach of the Somali pirates are in danger?
What follows is a mashup chart I created by combining a chart from a study of "The complex network of global cargo ship movements" by Pablo Kaluza, et al. with a recent IMB Live Piracy Map showing attacks to 4 March 2012 in the Indian Ocean area:
|EagleSpeak Mashup Map: The more yellow the line, the more heavily traveled the sea lane|
Here's another liberty I have taken from the Kaluza, et al piece, in which the green oval I have added highlights the area of concern:
Having a hypotheses of a potential area of attack - and one that covers a vast area of ocean at that- what is a viable way of providing some protection for these as yet "un-pirated" sea lanes?
Fighting Pirates with Airships, an idea apparently being examined by the Royal Navy. Another possibility is to keep the Somali pirates out of these sea lanes by a vigorous containment policy, though ultimately there has to be a "risk/reward" look at the potential which ways the costs of prevention of hijackings against the cost of paying ransoms.