Are We Sleepwalking Back to Piracy?

A shift in US foreign policy based both on changes to the threat landscape and improving domestic energy security could lead to an increase in threats to shipping within eighteen months according to David Hunkin of Dryad Maritime Intelligence. With the US strategic focus now firmly fixed on the Asia Pacific region and Iran ‘coming in from the cold’, it is only a matter of time before western navies begin withdrawing the warships that have been so successful in suppressing piracy.

2014.04.08 - Are We Sleepwalking Back to Piracy

Then what? With no convoys and no rescue forces, the commercial shipping industry could be left to fend for itself. According to Edward L Morse, the Managing Director and Global Head of Commodities at Citigroup, the US will become a net exporter of energy by 2020 and so for the first time in living memory, it will no longer have concerns over Gulf oil or threats to its supply.

Asia is the new US focus economically, politically and from a security perspective. Asia is where the next threats and opportunities for the US will arise. The Middle East is losing its importance and American and British armed forces are already withdrawing from the region much to the consternation of GCC states.

Piracy has been contained rather than solved and so if that containment is removed, piracy will return. Not only could a reduction in naval forces herald a return of piracy, it would also most certainly result in a reduction of rescue forces. At present, should a ship’s crew retreat to a citadel as pirates take control of their vessel, rescue forces are only hours or days away. With a drawdown of maritime forces, such rescue could be weeks away or it may not even materialise at all and it is highly unlikely that parachuting special-forces into the middle of the ocean to retake a pirated vessel with no on-scene naval forces will be considered as a viable hostage rescue solution.

So the nexus of reducing international tension and reducing economic significance seems inevitable. At some stage in the near future, naval forces will withdraw and Somalia will still be a largely lawless and ungoverned space and piracy may well return.

Source: Dryad Maritime


  1. M.A.T. says:

    Historically, the piracy problem has had but one solution: walking the plank for the perps and economically integrating the support bases ashore. Failing that, we shall see a proliferation of haphazardly-armed merchantmen (remember WW I?) and unregulated private militia as vessel protection detachments.

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