Somali Piracy in the Western Indian Ocean Region

Main Messages:


WIOR: Despite reduced spending, international efforts in the Indian Ocean continued to suppress major attacks. However, several recent hijackings of regional vessels could signal an increased threat.

  • The presence of coalition and independent deployers engaged in counter-piracy activities decreased by 15% in 2015.
  • The number of seafarers held hostage by pirates increased in 2015, with 108 seafarers held by pirates at some point over the
    course of the year.
  • Vessels near Somalia continue to report suspicious activity related to piracy. While many of these reports may be regional
    maritime commerce, OBP identified 9 incidents in 2015 which appear to present credible evidence of pirate activity.
  • Numerous reports from Somali sources emphasize the risk of piracy resurging in some form if the naval presence dissipates.


The Last Hijacking?

Four years after the hijacking of MT Smyrni, which was the last major merchant vessel captured by Somali pirates, it would be tempting to declare Somali piracy over.1 It would, however, be a mistake to make this declaration as long as seafarers are still held captive by pirates. Naham 3 was captured by pirates in 2012, just over a month before pirates took MT Smyrni. Naham 3’s crew started as 29 before running into pirates, but one was killed during the hijacking, and two more have since died in captivity. The remaining 26 are still in custody as of this writing. Unfortunately, the number of seafarers held by pirates grew in 2015 because a number of small regional vessels were hijacked by Somali pirates over the course of the year, and at least 15 of the seafarers involved still remain in pirate hands.

Somali Piracy Model

Map of Piracy Attacks East AfricaAll piracy attacks in 2015 - grey dots represent regional vessels.

Somali piracy is unique among piracy business models worldwide because of the level of community support that Somali pirates have enjoyed in the past and the ability to hold crews and their vessels for months, or even years in “safe havens” just off the coast during ransom negotiations. The ability to utilize these safe havens has degraded over the years, because of a more vigorous international naval presence and shifts in support on the ground in Somalia. As a result, their safe havens have shrunk from significant swaths of the coastline to a roughly 150nm long stretch between Haradhere and Garcad.

Somali piracy in the modern era began shortly after the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991, in the midst of instability and economic turmoil. Over the next decade, pirates targeted vessels off the coast of Puntland and in the Gulf of Aden in violent robberies. The first recorded incident of hijacking for ransom occurred in 1994, when two SHIFCO vessels were hijacked and held for $500,000 apiece.

The hijack for ransom model developed significantly in the early 2000s, and became the primary model by 2005, when the number of hijacking for ransom incidents jumped from 2 to 14 in a single year. Prior to 2005, a significant percentage of attacks occurred within territorial waters, and targeted smaller vessels, such as fishing vessels and dhows.2 As attacks became more frequent and the shipping industry responded with rerouting and increased vessel protection and hardening measures, and as naval forces began patrolling the Gulf of Aden, pirates were forced to expand their range. By 2010, pirates were able to attack vessels over 1,000nm from the Somali coast. These attacks were carried out by sophisticated Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) that could require investments as high as $30,000. The simpler, smaller PAGs operating closer to shore, however, could become operational for an investment of as little as a few hundred dollars.3 

East Africa Piracy Incidents

Incident Breakdown

Throughout 2015, OBP recorded five dhow hijackings, a failed attack on the fishing vessel Mook Andaman 028, nine incidents suspected of being piracy-related, one armed robbery, and a number of reported suspicious incidents.

It is worth noting that of these incidents only the robbery—which involved the yacht SY Imagine in the Seychelles—was reported by major reporting centers as a piracy incident.4 The attack on Muhammadi was reported as a suspicious incident by some centers, along with a number of other reports categorized as false alarms.

What is a Dhow?


Dhow Hijackings

The five dhow hijackings included:

  • Siraj, 22 March
  • Jaber, 22 March
  • Sudis, 2 April
  • Emirates 5, 15 May
  • Muhammadi, 22 November

Siraj and Jabar Hijacked VesselsSiraj and Jaber, credit EUNAVFOR

Siraj and Jaber

The most widely publicized incidents in 2015 were the hijackings of Siraj and Jaber. The two dhows were hijacked in late March while fishing close to the Somali shore, and the 39 seafarers from the two crews were held aboard their vessels by pirates off the Galmudug village of Ceel Huur. A ransom was reportedly paid for the vessels’ release, but the pirates reneged on the agreement. On 27 August, Jaber managed to slip its mooring and escape, and was subsequently rescued by a coalition vessel.5 In order to prevent the crew of Siraj from attempting to escape as well, the pirates beached the vessel and are holding the crew inland. Four crew members were rescued by Somali government forces on 5 November.

Sudis and Emirates 5

Two of these incidents, the hijackings of Sudis and Emirates 5, are suspected to have involved Al-Shabaab. The 26 seafarers aboard these two vessels are believed to have been released, presumably following a payment being made, though the actual duration of their captivity is unclear.

Muhammadi and FV Mook Andaman 028

Exactly what happened in the November attack involving Muhammadi and the fishing vessel Mook Andaman 028 is much less clear. Some reports indicate that Muhammadi was hijacked up to 300nm off the coast of Somalia on 22 November; however, it is possible the vessel was hijacked much closer to shore and then used as a mother ship to launch the attack on Mook Andaman 028. There is some indication that Muhammadi initially had eight pirates aboard, and that five pirates and one member of the crew set out to attack a nearby vessel. Around the same time, Mook Andaman 028 was reportedly attacked and potentially even boarded by pirates. The five pirates and one crew member that reportedly left Muhammadi did not return, leaving open the possibility that the incident left six people missing at sea.

What is known is that Muhammadi, with three pirates aboard, was taken to a location near the village of Ceel Hurr on 25 November, where it was held by 5 pirate guards. On 28 November, three days after arriving, the crew managed to kill the guards and escape with three injured crew. The Danish warship Absalon rendered assistance and helped to rescue the vessel. Though some details are still unknown, the facts indicate that a pirate gang was operating at some distance from shore, with the intent to hijack a foreign fishing trawler or similar type of vessel.

Suspected Piracy Incidents

In addition to the attacks described above, OBP has investigated 33 other incidents and has assessed that 9 of these reports are suspected piracy-related incidents, believed to have been probing events or soft approaches most likely perpetrated by Somali pirates. OBP has singled out these 9 incidents as the most likely to be related to pirate activity due to their locations, the profile of the vessels, and the sightings of weapons or pirate equipment.6 In several of these incidents embarked teams reported using a full “escalation of force” procedure, including warning shots, before the suspect skiff(s) moved away. Notably, 78% of vessels involved in these suspected piracy related incidents reported having a PCASP team aboard. Probing or soft approach-type incidents such as these may indicate that pirate gangs still retain the intent and capability to attack merchant vessels, and should be taken seriously as they may serve to warn of a continued, though undeniably diminished, pirate threat.


Trends in Piracy East Africa 2015

In addition to the incidents listed above, a number of indicators in 2015 have demonstrated that Somali pirates remain active, and still possess the intent and capability to conduct piracy attacks. These indicators include reports of active pirate action groups being organized and equipped in Galmudug and in the horn area east of Bosasso in Puntland.  There is also increasing resentment along the coast related to near-shore foreign fishing, which has been echoed by statements from Somali counter-piracy focal points and a survey conducted by an OBP partner in Galmudug. 

"Illegal fishing and extreme poverty are the main factors that made fishermen and youth involved in piracy as an alternative opportunity of getting their daily bread”
“It is possible that they may re-organize themselves if the current conditions are not changed, I mean poverty and illegal fishing”

Nor Hagi Mowlid, Fisherman

OBP received numerous reports from reliable sources over the past year that pirate kingpins had financed pirate action groups. Most of these are thought to be small PAGs, consisting of little more than a single skiff, likely costing only a few hundred dollars to finance. However, at least one report from early 2016 stated that pirates were working to secure larger boats from Yemen in order to increase their range. Reports of well-known pirate kingpins financing PAGs, coupled with incidents of pirate activity in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast lend credence to the notion that Somali pirate gangs remain active. 

The intent, and to some extent, the capability of pirates to carry out attacks appears to remain. The threat this poses may be exacerbated by illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing. The presence of foreign trawlers in Somali waters serves as an antagonism to locals, many of whom feel that these trawlers are stripping the waters of resources and threatening livelihoods.7 IUU fishing and reckless, sometimes violent behavior on the part of these trawlers creates a narrative that legitimizes the actions of pirates in the eyes of the local population.8    

“I’m sure they will re-organize themselves if the international navies leave. Therefore, I would advise the international community to address quickly the root causes of piracy which are poverty, unemployment, and illegal fishing

Pirates left Hobyo in 2012 and they also have no bases in Lebed, Buq, and Kalad. But they hold hostages in Elhur and Budbud villages

Galmudug coastal communities are neglected. They need development projects aimed at improving their living conditions as well as deterring youth from piracy”

Nor Hagi Mowlid, Fisherman

The prevalence of IUU fishing, in spite of the heavy international naval presence, has given rise to significant discontent among the coastal population. A survey of piracy attitudes and motivations, conducted by Omar Sheikh Ali, a Lawyer and the Galmudug State Counter Piracy Coordinator, in early 2016 indicated that many Somali’s feel that the international navies are in league with IUU fishing vessels. Many indicated that support for some pirate gangs was still maintained among a few local communities. There was strong consensus that pirate gangs may reorganize and resume activity should the international naval presence disappear.9 The communicated deterrent effect of international navies is consistent with the responses of convicted pirate prisoners gathered in a survey conducted by the UNODC and OBP.10

 The attitudes captured in the interviews in Galmudug mirror those expressed in Puntland as well. In an August 2015 BBC report from Eyl, Somalia, a former pirate haven, a number of interviewees indicated that unless their economic prospects improved, they might return to piracy. In the words of Puntland Counter-Piracy Minister Abdallah Jama Saleh, “[the pirates] are not dead, but dormant now, so they will come definitely... straight away, no question about it [as soon as the warships leave.]"11

 While pirate activity in Somalia remains at a low level, it would be premature to say that pirates no longer pose a threat. Furthermore, lacking success at sea, many pirates have diversified their activities into other criminal activities such as arms smuggling, human trafficking, and protection of illegal fishing vessels.12 Most of the pirate kingpins retain control of armed gangs, and some, including Mohamed Garfanji, still hold seafarers hostage for ransom. Discontent among coastal communities is high, especially as they see international navies as protecting IUU fishing. Attitudes toward piracy seem more sympathetic than in recent years, and may again receive increased support should economic prospects remain dismal. 



Human Cost

Seafarers Involved in Piracy

The 16 incidents recorded in the OBP database involved an estimated 306 seafarers. . Of these, 299 were aboard vessels involved in suspected piracy incidents where pirates approached the vessel but did not attempt to board. The five dhows hijacked by pirates had 78 seafarers aboard, and an estimated 17 were aboard FV Mook Andaman 028 during the reported piracy attack.

In the single reported robbery incident, a husband and wife were boarded by robbers in the Seychelles and the woman beaten with a broom handle. Additionally, an estimated total of 751 seafarers were aboard among the 33 incidents not counted in the OBP dataset, but they are worth considering, as the vessel master and security team in each case were concerned enough about suspicious behavior in the High Risk Area to submit a report.

Witnesses reported that the suspected pirates were armed with firearms in at least 67% of the 9 suspected piracy incidents, as well as   all 5 successful hijacking incidents and the failed attack on FV Mook Andaman 028. While the Seychellois robbers were unarmed during the yacht boarding, they did inflict blunt force trauma on the woman aboard. 

Injuries and Deaths

Hostages Held By Pirates

Sadly, in addition to the comparably minor injuries inflicted upon the female yachter, three seafarers aboard Muhammadi were seriously injured during the fight to escape their pirate guards. All five pirate guards aboard the Muhammadi were reportedly killed. While this is unconfirmed, it is possible that an additional Muhammadi crewmember and five other pirates went missing during the failed attack on FV Mook Andaman 028, and they are presumed dead.  


Over the course of 2015, 108 seafarers were held hostage in Somalia at some point; 78 of these were aboard vessels hijacked during the course of the year. The 26 crewmembers of Naham 3 have been held since March 2012. The four remaining Thai crewmembers of Prantalay 12 were released on 25 February after 1,774 days in pirate hands.

Naham 3

Crew of the Naham 3As of the release of this report, the crew of FV Naham 3 have been held for four years and one month. They were hijacked on 26 March 2012 south of the Seychelles, over 800nm from where they are now being held in Somalia. The crew have been through a harrowing ordeal, starting with the death of one of their colleagues due to injuries sustained in the attack.13 More than a year after the hijacking, they were still languishing is squalid conditions aboard Naham 3; MV Albedo, the vessel they were tethered to sank. One of the Vietnamese men aboard Naham 3 bravely jumped overboard to help save the lives of the 11 surviving members of Albedo’s crew.14 After another month aboard Naham 3 in cramped conditions below-deck with the Albedo survivors, Naham 3 was beached, and the crew was moved ashore, where they are being held in the bush.15 Two additional crewmembers from the Naham 3 hostages have died of disease since their capture, and the 26 remaining hostages, all from poor families in China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Philippines, remain in a squalid and precarious position.   

John Steed, OBP’s Horn of Africa Regional Manager, said of these remaining forgotten hostages: “Negotiations to see the release of the Naham 3 and its 26 crew…were underway through partners within the Hostage Support Partnership. However, at this time, negotiations have stalled due to unreasonable demands made by the pirates which cannot be met by a maritime charity interested in resolving the issue. The 26 crew of the Naham 3 come from poor families in Asia, and are being held on shore, abandoned by their company without insurance and with no way of meeting the unrealistic demands of increasingly desperate pirate gangs.”16 While the world has forgotten these seafarers, their families certainly have not. The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme recently conducted a reassurance visit to the families of the Naham 3’s Filipino crew. The daughter of one crewmember said that she was so worried about her father that she struggled to focus on her studies. The reassurance visit was a response to multiple attempts by the pirates to contact and harrass the families.17  

Siraj and Jaber

Siraj and Jaber were hijacked in March while fishing close to the Somali shore. Despite a ransom reportedly having been paid for the release of the vessels, the pirates continued to hold the vessels and crew. The crew of the Jaber managed to escape after 154 days in captivity, after which the Siraj crew were split up and moved inland to prevent escape.18 Four of the Siraj crew were rescued and repatriated by Galmudug forces on 5 November, 2015 after 224 days of captivity, and 15 remain captive. No further information about the conditions of the crew, or its conditions of captivity is currently available.

Emirates 5 and Sudis

Little information is available about the conditions in which the 26 crewmembers aboard the dhows Emirates 5 and Sudis. They are presumed to have been released, but the duration of their captivity or the circumstances surrounding their release is unclear.


Muhammadi’s crew are believed to have been held for around six days, but may have been held for longer if their vessel was hijacked earlier than reported and used as a mothership to attack FV Mook Andaman 028. The crew escaped in a dangerous and violent gambit that left at least three of their own injured and at least five pirate guards dead.

Prantalay 12

After 1,774 days in captivity, the last four Thai crew of fishing vessel Prantalay 12 were freed. Sadly, 6 of their comrades died while in the hands of pirates, their families forever robbed of their presence. The Hostage Support Partnership and various private partners worked throughout their captivity to provide the medical and humanitarian support that kept the crew alive and served as the primary liaison with the families of the hostages.19

Lost Wages

In addition to the severe physical, psychological, and emotional toll that hostages and their families experience, there is a significant financial burden on the hostages as well. All of the hostages held in 2015 were from poor families in developing nations and were presumably the primary or sole breadwinners in their homes. However, these seafarers have not and will not receive pay for their time in captivity. This amounts to a significant sum and can be crippling to their families back home. In 2015 alone, using the mandated minimum wage from the Maritime Labour Convention-mandated minimum wage of $23 a day, the seafarers of Naham 3, Prantalay 12, Siraj, and Jaber accrued approximately $415,000 in lost wages. Over the duration of their captivity so far, the crews of Prantalay 12 and Naham 3 lost $1.06 million in wages.



Economic Cost of Piracy

OBP estimates the total 2015 costs related to Somali piracy in the Western Indian Ocean Region to be $1.4 Billion

Total Economic Cost Of Piracy

Costs of Deterring Piracy

OBP estimates that the international community spent about $1.3 billion on measures designed to keep vessels safe from pirates in 2015, primarily through naval deployments, embarked guards, vessel hardening, increased speed and rerouting, and prosecutions and imprisonment. Of these measures, navies have presented the most visible and conventional mechanism for preventing or responding to piracy attacks.

Cost Of Deterring Piracy

International Naval Activities

All told, the estimated total cost of counter-piracy naval operations was around $323 million, a 56% drop in naval costs from 2014. As mentioned above,, this dramatic cost decrease is due to a reduction in the number of assets deployed, a decrease in the number of days on station, a shift in the type of assets utilized, and a roughly 50% drop in fuel costs for both aviation and surface assets.

International naval forces assessed by OBP can be effectively divided into two categories: coalition forces including Combined Maritime Forces CTF-151, NATO Operation Ocean Shield, and EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta—and independent deployers such as China, India and Russia. While their mandates vary, the coalition forces are mainly tasked with deterring and disrupting pirate activities, as well as escorting humanitarian aid, while the independent deployers are largely limited to protecting commercial traffic through the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden. South African assets assigned to Operation Copper to patrol the Mozambique Channel under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community have also been included in these calculations.

Deconfliction between coalition forces and independent deployers is achieved through the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) conferences hosted regularly in Bahrain by Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).22 These meetings are designed to facilitate coordination among all countries, naval partnerships, and industry organizations involved in counter-piracy off East Africa.

On average, a total of 19 coalition and independent deployer vessels were on station and engaged in counter-piracy operations throughout 2015. Though the number of coalition assets employed in counter-piracy operations remained comparable to 2014, the time on station dropped by 45%. This reduction was only partially offset by an increase in time on station by independent deployers. Overall, the amount of time on station dedicated to counter-piracy operations was 15% lower than in 2014.

International Naval Academies AIS tracks of counter-piracy naval forces (L) independent deployers, (R) coalition deployers

The 15% drop in time on station belies a shift in capacity, as the type of assets deployed, as well as the specific missions they are engaged in, have changed over the course of the year. Smaller offshore patrol vessels are supplanting frigates, and as the burden shifts from international coalitions to independent deployers, counter-piracy activities are becoming more concentrated on escort operations.

Asset Operation

The 15% drop in days on station, combined with fewer assets and a shift toward non-Western, independent deployers, lowered naval expenditures. This reduction was amplified by collapsing fuel prices. The total cost of naval asset deployment is estimated to be $299 million.

Administrative Budgets

The cost of maintaining Coalition operational headquarters, theater headquarters aboard flagships, and personnel transportation—separate from national operational expenditures—amounted to roughly $18 million.

SHADE Conferences

With an average of 101 total delegates from more than 30 countries, travel and accommodation across all three conferences is estimated to have cost around $373,000.

Vessel Protection Detachments

In addition to conducting counter-piracy patrols and escort operations, EUNAVFOR provides Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachments (AVPDs): teams of soldiers that travel aboard some vulnerable merchant vessels while they transit the Best Management Practices Version 4 High Risk Area (BMP4 HRA). Most of these AVPDs escort ships contracted by the World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver aid to African ports in the BMP4 HRA. In 2015, AVPDs escorted 36 WFP vessels and 1 African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) shipment at a cost of around $5.2 million.

Armed Guards

As AVPDs are only available to WFP or AMISOM vessels and a few specific flag states, many shipping companies have turned to privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) from private maritime security companies (PMSCs) to help deter pirates.  (BMP4) leaves the decision of whether to hire guards up to individual shipowners and operators, with the caveat that guards should be used within a layered set of security measures and not as a substitute for BMP4 recommendations.

PSCAP Insurance

Changes in the rate of PCASP employment, team size, and composition tell a story of reduced threat perception and a need to cut costs. As 2015 progressed, PMSC teams were utilized less and less frequently, and when they were employed, shipping companies increasingly opted for smaller and less expensive teams. In total, OBP estimates that the shipping industry spent around $618 million on guards for cargo and tanker vessels.23

Rate of Employment

The percentage of vessels reporting embarked guards dropped 18% over the course of the year. The rate of use dropped sharply between November and December, indicating that shrinking the HRA had a significant effect on perceptions around the need to utilize armed teams. This effect was most pronounced off the coast of India, which is not included in the new HRA. The percentage of vessels carrying teams there dropped by more than 20%, compared to an 8% drop within the HRA. Overall, PCASP teams were on board for roughly 32% of transits in the HRA.24 Though the rate of use decreased, OBP data suggest that more teams overall were embarked on vessels at the end of the year than at the beginning, due to growth in traffic over the course of the year.

Security Team Sizes

Team Size

The trend toward three-man teams and away from four man teams observed in 2013 and 2014 continued in 2015. At the start of the year, three and four man teams were used with roughly equal frequency, but by the end of the year, more than 63% of teams had only three members, a shift driven by cost considerations. 

Anecdotally, some flag states have permitted the use of two- man teams—contrary to industry guidance provided by BIMCO’s GUARDCON contract and others—which offer additional savings.25 This development is worth noting, but as no hard data is available, it has been excluded from the calculations here.

Team Composition:

The UK still dominates the industry, with 40% of the PMSCs registered there. The next largest home country is Cyprus, making up 16%, followed by the US at 6%. No other country hosts more than 5%.26 Each home state has different regulations governing PMSC operations, with varying cost and oversight implications.

Piracy Guard Nationalities

Although UK personnel make up less than 24% of team members, they are involved in more than 50% of teams. UK-only teams make up less than 12% of the total, now surpassed by Greek-only teams. The percentage of Indian- only teams is growing, at over 8%.27 This too appears to be a cost- saving measure, as UK personnel are paired with less costly counterparts, or bypassed altogether in favor of homogenous non-UK teams.

Security companies working on Piracy

Ship Protection Measures

Use of vessel hardening measures such as razor wire and other passive defense measures has been recommended since at least the first version of the Best Management Practices, released in February 2009.28 

These recommendations have been refined and expanded in each subsequent version and have been considered to among the most basic BMP procedures for at least the past six years.29 As such, OBP assumes that existing vessels operating with the Western Indian Ocean Region (WIOR) have been outfitted, at the owner’s discretion, with ship protection measures (SPMs) prior to 2015. However, as several types of passive defense measures, such as sandbags and razor wire, will need to be replaced occasionally, OBP has attempted to calculate this replacement cost. The estimated cost of refitting vessels and replacing corroded or damaged SPMs was approximately $5.5 million in 2015.

Cost of Ship Protection from Pirates

30 31 32 33

Increased Speed

Steaming at increased speed through the High Risk Area is a key element of the Best Management Practices. In the past, this practice has constituted a significant proportion of total counter-piracy costs, as higher speeds greatly increase fuel consumption. In 2015, the costs incurred by increased speed in the HRA dropped significantly, but less due to a change in behavior than a dramatic decrease in the price of fuel, which fell by 49.5% from 2014 to 2015. This collapse in fuel costs, coupled with changing market dynamics, actually led to a slight overall increase in steaming speeds globally. These global average speeds were used as a control in order to identify vessels whose increased speed in the HRA is likely a response to the increased piracy threat in those waters.

Average Ship Speeds

Overall, the percentage of vessels transiting the HRA at increased speeds in 2015 increased slightly over 2014, due primarily to the largest vessel categories. As these vessels are less vulnerable to piracy, this change in behavior may be due to changes in market conditions and reduced fuel costs rather than piracy concerns.

Increased Speed to Avoid Pirates

The behavior of the far more vulnerable vessels, those fewer than 200 meters long, is more likely indicative of perceptions of the threat posed by Somali pirates. This category displays a distinct and steady decline in the percentage of vessels steaming at higher speeds.

The cost of increased speeds as a piracy counter-measure is estimated to be $272 million


At piracy’s apex many vessels in transit between the Gulf of Aden and the southern tip of India chose to reroute along the coastlines of the Arabian Sea to avoid the more exposed direct route.  This diversion could add as much as 600nm to the route, costing extra time and fuel. However, as with the 2013 and 2014 State of Piracy reports, OBP analysis indicates no statistically significant rerouting of this type in 2015.

While the vast majority of vessels are not engaged in significant rerouting across the Arabian Sea, most vessels do still adhere to the IRTC while in the Gulf of Aden, rather than the shortest-distance route. Additionally, a very small number of vessels do still appear to be engaged in some form of rerouting.

Notably, some vessels take a straight-line route from the end of the IRTC to the EUNAVFOR operational boundary at 65° E, which forms the eastern boundary of the recently revised HRA. As this behavior predates the HRA changes, it is likely related to naval operations.

Among vessels transiting between the Persian Gulf and the southern tip of India there does appear to be rerouting. However, piracy is not definitively the impetus for this detour. As analysis of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) data and discussion with industry experts did not reveal any convincing explanations for this behavior, though it is plausible that these vessels are rerouting due to a perceived piracy threat. If this is the case, one expects to see a normalization of this traffic along a more direct route following the adjustment to the HRA.

The outcome of the study of traffic patterns in 2015 is less about how different vessels behave due to the threat of piracy than it is about a return to pre-piracy shipping routes. The graphic below demonstrates the “normal” pre-piracy shipping lanes in 2000, the adaptation of shipping traffic during the rise of piracy in 2007, the reaction of the shipping industry to BMP4 in 2009, and the return to “normal” shipping patterns by 2015. The primary shipping lane along the east coast of Africa through the Mozambique Channel has returned to within 300nm of the Somali Coast.

Ship Rerouting Due To PiracyShipping patterns 2000-2015 vessels moved away from the somali coast during the height of the piracy crisis, but have returned in recent years.

Prosecution and Imprisonment

Costs for prosecutions and imprisonment remained roughly the same between 2014 and 2015. Overall, the net number of pirates held did not change, but there were two notable changes in status

One of the alleged pirates awaiting trial in India, 28- year- old Abdi Chama, died of tuberculosis while in custody awaiting trial  in Mumbai.34 Alternatively, there was one Somali pirate arrested for piracy in 2015.  He was identified as a member of the pirate gang that hijacked MB Susan K on 8 April, 2011 based on forensic evidence after the attack. Unfortunately for his case, this evidence was matched when he immigrated to Europe and applied for asylum in Germany.35 Bizarrely, this young man was not the only Somali asylum seeker with apparent ties to piracy arrested in Germany in 2015, and is the third to have been arrested and convicted of piracy in Germany in the past few years.36

Cost to Imprison Pirates

Notably, the trial of famed pirate kingpin “Afweyne” Mohamed Abdi Hassan and his accomplice “Ticeey” Mohamed Moalin Aden was held in Bruges, Belgium. The two were accused of involvement in at least 24 hijacking and abduction cases, including that of MS Pompei in April 2009. They were arrested as part of an elaborate sting operation, in which they were invited to Brussels supposedly to serve as advisers for a piracy documentary.37 Afweyne was sentenced to 20 years for the Pompei hijacking, and Ticeey was sentenced to 5 years for involvement in Afweyne’s criminal gang.38 Additionally, six pirates held by Spain were convicted of piracy and membership in a criminal group for their attack on Izurdia in November 2012.39 Finally, the failed appeal by five of the Somali attackers convicted for the April 2010 USS Ashland attack resulted in an extension of their sentences from 30–42.5 years to life.40

Cost of Counter Piracy Organizations

The continuing identification and prosecution of pirates demonstrates the necessity of evidence collection and information-sharing systems. The sustained commitment to rule of law and justice, in terms of prosecutions and imprisonment of convicted pirates, cost roughly $7 million in 2015.

Counter-Piracy Organizations

Counter-piracy organizations and projects like those below work alongside military and other security operations to build capacity, support information-sharing and situational awareness, coordinate initiatives, and support victims. OBP has attempted to capture all the organizations that can be attributed to countering piracy, but realizes that this list may not meant to be exhaustive. It does, however, provide another tool to measure the cost of counter-piracy activities in 2015.

Other Costs Associated with Piracy

In addition to costs incurred combatting or preventing piracy are those costs incurred as a consequence of piracy, such as ransoms paid to recover hostages and increased labor costs and insurance rates. OBP estimates that these cost amounted to $129.2 million for 2015.

Other Costs of Piracy

Expenditures: 41 42 43 44 45 46 


The four remaining Thai hostages from Prantalay 12 were released on 25 February 2015, after 1,774 days in captivity.  Originally taken on 18 April 2010, the Taiwanese-flagged fishing vessel was used by pirates as a mother ship before it eventually capsized in July 2011, when the remaining crewmembers were moved on shore. Of the 24 original crewmen, 6 succumbed to illness while in captivity. Another 14 hostages from Myanmar were released before the vessel’s capsizing in May 2011. No publicly available information exists surrounding any payments that may have been made to facilitate the release of these remaining four seafarers. In August 2015, 34 members of the crew of FV Al Amal were rescued by the Puntland Maritime Police Force from a high piracy risk area after their ship went aground The crew was repatriated by the Hostage Support Partnership (HSP) in cooperation with the Kenyan Government who funded the rescue flight.

It has not been possible to assess or verify ancillary costs expended to negotiate the release of these seafarers, such as post-release transport costs, or costs for medical care, psychological care, and humanitarian support for the crews and their families. The negotiations benefited from donations of pro bono expertise from a number of negotiation experts and international lawyers. While in the past the vessel owners or operators have typically paid ransom expenses, the payments made to secure the release of these men were made by private charities.


Hazardous Duty Pay

Seafarers working on ships traversing the WIOR are recognized as enduring increased personal risk due to the threat of piracy. As a result, several collective bargaining agreements developed through the International Bargaining Forum (IBF), International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), ITF, and national seafarers' unions have identified specific areas within which seafarers are entitled to additional pay, in addition to the right to refuse passage without penalty.47 Between the IBF HRA, Warlike Operations Area, and the Extended Risk Zone, OBP estimates that seafarers were entitled to $50 million in hazard pay in 2015.48 This is a decrease of over 53% from 2014, due primarily to the removal of the IRTC from the IBF HRA which occurred in July 2014.  This results in a 49% decrease in eligible transits for 2015.

Piracy Watch Overtime Pay

Another labor cost for consideration is the overtime accrued by seafarers standing piracy watch while transiting the HRA.49 Additional piracy watches are not only mundane, stressful, and physically taxing due to the longer hours, they can represent an added expense for the shipping company. If two additional crewmembers are on piracy watch it could cost as much as $1,073 to $2,922 for an HRA transit or between $173 and $472 per day.50


War Risk Insurance

OBP utilized premiums paid in 2014 by Hellenic War Risk club (HWR) members to estimate the total War Risk Added Premiums (WRAPs) paid for transiting the WIOR Listed Area in 2015.51 Assuming that the Indian Ocean Listed Area accounted for 50% of all WRAPs in 2015, and that the change in net premiums was −20%, the additional premiums paid by vessels transiting the WIOR Listed Area totaled around $65.2 million. Importantly, this drop in premiums primarily reflects market pressures rather than reduced risk perception.

cargo insurance

Cargo Risk Insurance

The threat of piracy in a given region may also trigger higher cargo insurance premiums. Cargo insurance, unlike Hull War Risk or K&R Insurance, is not purchased by the shipping company, but by the cargo owners. There is significant variation across the types of policies and what they cover, and the premium varies based on a number of factors. The nature of cargo insurance is such that a comprehensive estimate of piracy- related costs is impossible. However, one can deduce whether or not the costs associated with this type of insurance were likely higher or lower than they were in the previous year based on the risk score assigned to the region by the Joint Cargo Committee.52


Kidnap & Ransom Insurance

In addition to the WRAPs, a significant number of vessel operators take out kidnap & ransom (K&R) insurance as additional protection for the vessel’s crew. OBP used data from interviews with maritime insurance experts to gauge the rate of use and cost per transit of K&R policies. The total cost was then vetted against an assessment of the global K&R market.

OBP estimates that in 2015, approximately 12% of all vessels transiting the HRA bought K&R insurance at an average cost of $1,500 per transit, totaling $14 million.53 An alternative method of estimating the WIOR K&R insurance cost, and a check of initial calculations, is to assume that it makes up between 3% and 5% of the global market.  The global K&R market is estimated to be between $250 and $300 million in net premiums.54 This indicates that the shipping industry in the WIOR paid between $8 and $15 million in K&R insurance premiums. OBP’s estimate of $14 million falls within this spectrum.

Based on the in the Lloyd’s Joint Cargo Committee Risk Score for the Gulf of Aden, it can be deduced that cargo insurance rates for the Gulf of Aden continued to drop during 2015. However, Somalia was added as a risk area in July 2015, which may indicate that rates within Somali territorial waters increased.