If you saw the Tom Hanks movie titled “Capt. Phillips,” you might be surprised at a new statistic about piracy off the coast of Somalia.
For years, the media has covered the story of Somali pirates that often held ships and sometimes the crews for months until their ransom demands were met.
And the movie “Capt. Phillips” told one of those stories in a dramatic fashion. So I was surprised to learn the total number of hijacked ships by Somali pirates last year was . . . zero. Four years ago that number was 52, or an average of one vessel per week. In 2011, Somali pirates extorted about $160 million in ransom money out of shipping companies, their insurers, and governments.
That’s an extraordinary reduction, and it can be credited to more patrols by international navies, the hiring of private, armed guards, and the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia.
This doesn’t mean piracy on the high seas is over. According to Oceans Beyond Piracy that keeps an eye on such things, hijackings are still a problem in the Indian Ocean. Pirates still operate from Indonesia, Nigeria, and even India. And the cost of private security and insurance has soared for shipping companies.
But the days of Somali pirates seem to be over, at least for now.