Modern pirates often operate off the coast of poor developing countries such as Somalia. Their targets are commercial shipping and superyachts where the high-value of the vessels cargo and crew can be held to ransom for millions of dollars.
The Gulf region and Indian Ocean continues to be the main passageway for many commercial vessels such as tankers and containerships; this requires them to sail through high-risk areas, were such vessels are often targeted for attack by pirates. The intent of the pirates can range from simple robbery of possessions to the seizure of the vessel itself, including its cargo and holding the crew hostage.
A pirate attack usually involves the deployment of a number of small craft or “skiffs” from a mother ship. The aim is to intimidate the crew by firing at the vessel and boarding at its weakest point. The pirate’s use of firearms is on the increase and typically involves the use of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG).
The costs of piracy are soaring, with an increasing focus on the owner’s responsibility to protect their crews. A recent survey estimated the financial cost of each attack to be some $9m** notwithstanding the emotional impact burdened by the crew.
For some time seafarers have sought an effective way to protect their vessels and crews from attack at reasonable cost while minimising the possibility of getting involved in a fire-fight on the open seas.
Despite international efforts, pirate attacks continue to grow. The continuing expansion of the danger area, and the pirates increasing preparedness to use violence in order to achieve their aim, means that the safety of individual vessels cannot always be guaranteed.
**Source: General Insurance Research Organisation (GIRO)