On Monday, March 13, pirates seized an oil tanker off the coast of Somalia, making it the first successful Somali pirate attack since 2012. Officials are concerned that this is the beginning of a resurge in violence in the region.
But some officials say they aren’t surprised by the attack. Take Gerry Northwood for example. Northwood is the chief operating officer at maritime risk management consultancy MAST. He says that mounting political tensions are responsible for the sudden resumption of pirate activity.
“With the current political situation in Somalia and the increasing confidence of those transiting through the Western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, it was very likely that such an attack was going to occur,” Northwood stated.
Things took a turn for the worse on Thursday, when the pirates exchanged gunfire with Somali maritime forces. A security official said that one soldier suffered critical injuries.
As of now, pirates still retain control over the oil tanker, called Aris 13. A total of eight crewmembers are currently being held hostage.
“The ship and crew will remain safe as long as no one attacks them,” said Bile Hussein, a man who claims to be in touch with the pirates.
Fortunately, Somali pirates are normally in it for the money and the money alone. In other words, so long as they are able to collect some type of ransom, they will likely leave the crewmembers unharmed.
As far as future attacks go, Emma Gordon says there’s no reason to panic. As an analyst at global risk consultancy firm Verisk Maplecroft, Gordan doesn’t believe this particular attack shows any indication that the amount of piracy cases will resemble anything like those seen in 2012 and the years prior.
“Pirates need at least $30,000 to mount complex missions against large commercial vessels. With the rate of success dramatically lower due to international naval patrols, financiers will not want to fund expensive pirate missions.”
Perhaps that provides at least a little bit of reassurance for maritime workers in that area.