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Anti-piracy plans divide opinions

Lack of consensus remains across the regional shipping sector on how best to tackle Somali piracy

Despite the fact that the number of attacks by Somali pirates fell in the first nine months of this year, the shipping industry warns there is no time for complacency. 

Determining the best way to tackle the threat, however, continues to divide opinions.

This year’s decline in pirate attacks has been put down to the increased use of private security firms on board ships. The ramping up of naval activity in the region has also played a key role in combating incidents.

Despite the success of these tactics, concerns have been raised about their long-term effectiveness. The use of private security guards has only recently won the approval of a number of European governments, and many ship owners remain uncomfortable with the prospect of an armed and unregulated presence on board their ships.

There have also been complaints that armed guards have indiscriminately fired at fishermen off the coast of Yemen. Industry bodies such as the ICC-IMB do not see the use of these guards as a long-term solution. 

Increasing the presence of naval forces has also been criticised. One UK-based research group argues that the risk of piracy does not justify the current level of state spending. It says oil companies shipping their tankers through the Gulf of Aden should bear the cost of protecting their ships themselves.

Demands for naval personnel to be privately contracted out to commercial companies, which would effectively see naval officers being used as private security guards, has caused further concern for both lobby groups and military personnel alike. 

There is a general consensus that the most effective long-term counter-piracy method would be to pull Somalia out of poverty. Until that ambitious goal is achieved, there continues to be a lack of agreement in terms of how to combat the immediate threat of piracy.

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