When Jack Murphy tagged me in an article posted on Facebook about the increase of piracy incidents in the Caribbean, my initial thought was, “Is there a possibility of maritime security gigs there?” — a couple of days waiting for a ship on St. Kitts and Nevis is not exactly my idea of a bad time.
According to a report generated by the nonprofit organization Oceans Beyond Piracy, 71 pirate attacks happened in 2017 in Latin America and the Caribbean Sea: that is a 163 percent increase over previous years. In 59 percent of these incidents, the target was yachts and the wallets of the passengers, in what is described as robbery at sea.
Fishermen from Guyana were not as lucky as the passengers of the yachts; in total, 12 people are feared dead and the captain of a fishing boat was executed by pirates in separate incidents.
Lacking the conditions of Somalia in earlier years, as the states of the area are capable of mounting a response, the piracy in Latin America would be unlikely to evolve into anything more than robberies at sea.
Of course, that doesn’t negate the danger for crews and cruise goers, as the isolation of a ship at sea puts you entirely at the mercy of the robbers. To make things more complicated, even in cases where authorities are at a reasonable distance to be able to offer aid after a distress signal, no one wants to undertake a hostage rescue operation on a ship. In the Indian Ocean, one of the main jobs you had as the security team, was to make sure the crew was inside the room designated as the citadel in the case of an attack, it was a requirement for the NATO forces in the area in order to intervene. One hostage, and it was game over, you were in for the ride to Somalia.
The same report states that the incidents in the Gulf of Aden have also doubled since last year. I don’t think; however, we are ever going to see a return of the 2009 situation; the area now has the world’s attention, and with Aden being such an important route, the reaction to things getting out of hand will be swift.
All jokes aside, having armed guards is an almost fail-proof deterrence. Don’t get me wrong, attacks will still happen, but the presence of opposition will make the difference between successful attacks and murdered crews, and 30 minutes of terror and a good story back home. Robbers, much like the Somali pirates, are not there for a fight but to make a profit: make the target not worth the risk, and it is certain that the attack numbers will go down — fast.
Featured image: Gasoline smuggling in the Limón River, Zulia state, Venezuela by jaimeluisgg [CC BY 1.0], from Wikimedia Commons