Growing Gulf of Aden Piracy Threat

September 26, 2008

In May the London market’s Joint War Committee (JWC) added the Gulf of Aden to its areas “as having an enhanced potential to cause a danger to ships or their crews,” notes an article on the Lloyd’s web site (www.lloyd’

The body of water between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa continues to be a very dangerous place for shipping. The threat was underscored this week by the “dramatic rescue by French commandos and a German shipping company’s ransom payout to recover crew and vessel,” notes Lloyd’s. These are only the latest incidents of the escalation of piracy in one of the world’s busiest waterways.

“This is a risk that’s still not under control,” stated Brendan Flood, Marine Underwriter at Hiscox. “We are telling our policyholders to take every common sense precaution and have passed on the recommendations from the JWC as to the areas to avoid.” He added that the gangs are becoming bolder and are going deeper into international waters to seize ships.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) describes the current situation as “extremely serious.” Pottengal Mukundan, IMB Director, stated: “We’ve not seen such a surge in pirate activity in this area previously. These pirates are not afraid to use significant firepower in attempts to bring vessels under their control. Over 260 seafarers have been taken hostage in Somalia in the period up to August this year. Unless further action is taken, seafarers remain in serious danger while navigating the Gulf of Aden.”

A US navy-led task force has introduced the Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) in the waters between Somalia and Yemen to guard vessels but has said it’s not a permanent arrangement.

“Clearly the risks have increased and therefore so have the rates for insurance cover,” Flood explained. “This is a vital route for world trade and the option of going the long way round is one which is really not open to vessels.”

The Gulf provides access to the Suez Canal and should vessels be forced to abandon the use of the canal, they face adding 4,500 miles onto their journey from Europe to Asia.

Source: Lloyd’s

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