The concerns emerged as a result of a workshop held by SAMI in Hamburg, during which ship owner representatives and company security officers were encouraged to discuss their security concerns.
Despite a reported drop in overall attack figures, Somali piracy still poses a significant threat as criminals remain heavily armed and eager to hijack. According to the feedback gained, the figures showing a reduction in Somali piracy mask the true numbers – in fact the statistics which show a fall in the region are somewhat misleading – while others call them “downright wrong”.
It seems that the curse of “under reported” pirate attacks or misunderstood data are the next major issues to dog the shipping industry, and there are calls for an urgent shake up in the way that reports are both generated, captured and promulgated.
It also seems that problems have emerged as the threshold for reporting has undergone a significant change over the past 18 months, due to the “dumbing down” of reports and a failure to report.
Why is reporting becoming such a toxic issue? According to SAMI there are two immediate issues which could be driving the under-reporting phenomena: One is the fact that ship owners are increasingly hesitant about reporting. Another issue is the complication of verifying incidents as piracy incidents. It seems that defining a pirate attack is one thing, but actually recognising one is something else altogether. As the use of shipboard armed guards has increased, pirates are a little more subtle in their approaches, quite literally. Guards frequently report far more “probing incidents” in which potential pirates maintain their cover by not overtly attacking.
When is a skiff manned by a group of pirates or just fishermen looking for their next catch? The answer is dictated by their ultimate actions so actually statistically accounting for them is incredibly hard, says SAMI. Increasingly vessels in the High Risk Area (HRA) are subjected to incidents that appear to be co-ordinated small boat piracy approaches but, because they choose not to ultimately attack, they are not necessarily classified as piracy or a suspicious approach.
Unfortunately the lack of definitive figures makes it hard to ensure that the right security resources are brought to bear on to the piracy problems, says SAMI. While there are concerns about complacency and security fatigue creeping in, it is perhaps understandable when the statistics are mired in uncertainty. This makes it doubly important that shipping has proper, clear and defined data on which to make decisions.