The New York Times published a piece last week describing the “sharp” decline in piracy off the coast of Somalia It cited data provided by the US Navy demonstrating that attacks had significantly fallen off in 2012 compared to 2011 and 2010. The decline was attributed to industry having implemented better security measures, the large-scale participation by forces from many world navies in counter-piracy operations in the region, and raids conducted to rescue hostages.Many of us have argued for years that the solution to the Somali pirate issue lay inside Somalia and that the international navy flotillas bobbing around offshore are less responsible for reducing piracy than in forcing the pirates to innovate and move to the less patrolled areas through the use of "mother ships" to carry their attack skiffs further to sea.
Conspicuously absent, however, is any mention of how events ashore may have impacted piracy. The only mention in the piece as to how actions on land are related to piracy was that “renewed political turmoil” or “further economic collapse” could cause more Somalis to pursue piracy as a livelihood.
In June Matt Hipple made his case in this blog that international naval operations had little or nothing to do with the current decline in piracy. He argued that the Kenyan invasion of Somalia and continued operations by the multi-national forces of AMISOM, as well as armed private security forces onboard commercial vessels were the decisive factors behind the recent drop in pirate attacks. Another June piece by the website Somalia Report attributed the decline to internal Somali factors, primarily declining financial support by Somali investors in the pirate gangs, and increased operations of the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF).
I do note that since there has been more naval concentration on stopping these mother ships there has been a decline in pirate attacks, so the naval forces do have that going for them.
Further, in the last few months, the weather (thank you, monsoon!) has made the seas unsettled enough to hinder the pirate small boat operations. And, of course, those private armed security guards mentioned in the article have played a major role (it's hard to believe now how controversial they were at the beginning of their use).
More on the weather from the last ONI "SOMALIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report (Horn of Africa) for 23 – 29 August 2012":
UPDATE (5 Sept): Martin Murphy also plowed this ground at Piracy attacks drop to zero – why? and issues a warning:
The world is dealing with an adaptable and intelligent adversary that watches and listens to what we do. So long as the potential for significant profits remains – and so long as the pirates’ on-land support infrastructure and international negotiating capacity remains intact – then the incentive to wait until the current counter-measures are stood-down will remain. Baring action against these assets the pirates will be back. Piracy is not over.