Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in East Africa 2017

Main Messages:

  • In total, almost double the number of incidents compared to 2016 were recorded, especially those of suspicious activity, failed attacks, and hijacking and kidnappings. The Horn of Africa experienced an increase in hijackings and kidnappings in the spring of 2017, which included the short-term detention of seafarers.
  • Spillover from the political conflict in Yemen continued to affect the maritime space in the region, with a number of incidents occurring off the coast of Yemen. While these threats are expanding, shipping behavior has remained constant.
  • Independent deployers represented the primary naval presence in the region, over coalition forces.
  • The array of threats in this region makes clear the need for a comprehensive maritime security approach. The insecure environment allows piracy and other maritime crimes to thrive and continue unabated. The long-term solution for piracy includes the need for the establishment of a secure maritime space.

MT Aris 13 Incident

For 2017, OBP recorded a total of 54 incidents in the Western Indian Ocean Region, an increase of 100 percent from 2016. Accordingly, 2017 saw an increase in the number of seafarers affected by incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea, from 545 in 2016 to 1,102 in 2017. For the first time in two years, OBP recorded incidents of hijacking and kidnapping at sea in the region. Suspicious activity continued to be the highest represented incident in the region in 2017. There was a significant increase from 13 recorded incidents in 2016, to 32 in 2017.

The short surge in hijacking attacks in the first quarter of 2017 has been attributed to several factors. These include the continued intent of pirate action groups to launch attacks and the opportunity to do so, due to lessened adherence to ship self-protection measures, including Best Management Practices (BMP). Independent deployers represented the primary naval presence in the region, but both coalition forces and independent deployers decreased days of operation, or days on station in the region, in 2017.

As in previous years, the capability and intent of pirate networks has not decreased, as was witnessed with the increased number of hijackings, including of the Aris 13, the Asayr 2, the and Al Kausar.

Mapping of Attacks in East Africa

Total Attacks Piracy East Africa 2017


Overview: East Africa Incidents


total piracy incidents in east africa 2017
total piracy by robbery 2017 East Africa
robbery by location


Piracy by Vessel Type 2017


The Case of MT Aris 13

On 23 March 2017, the Aris 13, a Comoros-flagged merchant tanker en route to Mogadishu from Djibouti, was hijacked by Somali pirates approximately 18 kilometers off the northeastern coast of Somalia. This incident marks the first successful hijacking of a merchant ship in five years. The eight Sri Lankan crewmembers, who were taken to Caluula, a coastal town in Somalia’s Puntland region, were released without a ransom payment after three days in captivity. The ship was successfully attacked for a number of reasons: it was preparing to cut through the Socotra Gap, near the Somali coast; it had a low freeboard of three meters; and it was moving slowly, at a speed of only five knots. Additional ships were subsequently attacked in the region in the following weeks, including the dhows Asayr 2 and Al Kausar.

Although the attacks on the Aris 13 and other ships demonstrated pirate activity not often seen in recent years, OBP does not believe that this suggests the reemergence of large-scale piracy in the Horn of Africa. Such activity continues to reinforce the need for vessels to adhere to industry Best Management Practices (BMP).





Human Cost East Africa


Seafarers Exposed to Piracy
Piracy Incident Type
Seafarers Exposed to Violence by Pirates
Piracy and Weapons


East Africa: Nationalities

Piracy and Nationality

This graphic represents the 115 1known nationalities of the 209 seafarers exposed to piracy and armed robbery at sea in 2017 as reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).


East Africa: Hostages in 2017

The crew of FV Siraj have been held hostage since 26 March 2015. The March 2017 hijacking of the Aris 13 represents the first hijacking of a merchant ship by Somali pirates since the height of piracy in the region in 2012. Due to the efforts of the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF), the crew was released after three days. The Asayr 2, a dhow, was hijacked several days after the Aris 13 attack. A week after the incident involving the Asayr 2, the dhow Al Kausar was hijacked and the crew was held for 12 days before they were released.

Hostages: Number of Days in Captivity by Vessel

Ship Name Hostages # Days in Captivity *
Siraj 1 365
Aris 13 8 3
Asayr 2 7 3
Al Kausar 10 12
* The number shown in these graphics only represent days held in 2017.



East Africa Economic Cost

East Africa Piracy Coast TextEast Africa Economic Cost Piracy Chart

East Africa: Cost of International Naval Activities

Days on Station: Coalition Forces vs Independent Deployers

Coalition Forces 2016 Days on Station 2017 Days on Station
Coalition Forces 2402 1239
Independent Deployers 2657 2588

Days on Station refers to the number of days ships are in operation. This is calculated on a ship-by-ship basis to ensure accuracy. Days on station refers only to naval ships operating as part of a coalition force (CTF-151, Operation Atalanta), or as an independent deployer (Russia, India, China, et al.). The cost of International Naval Activities was calculated using the following considerations: cost of coalition force costs (naval operations, aerial operations, and administrative budgets) and naval and aerial operations by independent deployers operating in the region; the total amounting to $199,357,575. OBP’s calculation also included $344,962, attributed to the organization of Shared Awareness and De-Confliction (SHADE) conferences.

East Africa: Cost of Vessel Protection Detachments

Vessel protection detachments are teams of soldiers that protect certain merchant ships while they transit the High Risk Area (HRA). Most vessel protection detachments are contracted by the World Food Programme; the European Union Naval Force ATALANTA (EU NAVFOR) also provides vessel protection detachments to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). 

East Africa: Cost of Ship Protection Measures (SPMs)

Since the release of the first version of Best Management Practices (BMP) in 2009, the recommendations for ship hardening have been refined and expanded upon in updated editions. OBP assumes that existing ships operating in the region have already been outfitted with ship protection measures prior to this year. Therefore, OBP’s estimated cost for SPM’s for 2017 is $6.8 million.

East Africa: The Cost of Embarked Contracted Maritime Security

For 2017, the average monthly usage rate for Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) was 25.1 percent. This marked a 13 percent drop in usage of PCASP over the last 3 years (Usage rates at the beginning of 2015 where recorded at around 38 percent). Based on these usage rates, OBP estimates the cost of Embarked Contracted Maritime Security at $292,463,537 for 2017.

East Africa: Cost of Counter-Piracy Organizations 2

Counter-piracy Organization Cost Breakdown

Organization Cost
CGPCS Meetings $416,429
CGPCS Trust Fund $484,424
Crimson II -
CRIMARIO $1,550,012
EUCAP Somalia $22,175,234
Maritime Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) -
MASE (EU Programme to Promote Regional Maritime Security) $8,454,610
OBP East Africa $120,471
UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme -
Total $33,201,180


The End of NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield

The increase in piracy observed in 2017 can be attributed, at least in part, to fewer assets on patrol, or the perception of a decrease in the coalition force presence, due to the ending of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) Operation Ocean Shield. However, during its seven years in operation, NATO's Task Force 508 was considerably smaller than either of the other two operating in the region, numbering usually three to four ships, compared to ten or more. In 2016, Operation Ocean Shield had two ships assigned which spent 91 days on patrol; Combined Task Force 151 had over 1,000 and EU NAVFOR had 1,756 patrol days.

East Africa: Cost of Increased Speed

OBP did not record any statistically significant increase in the number of vessels speeding through the HRA. Rather, the roughly 42 percent increase in speeding costs over 2016 was largely due to rising fuel prices throughout 2017. The cost of increased speeding in 2017 was $758,707,277.

East Africa: Cost of Rerouting

OBP did not find any statistically significant rerouting in 2017. As in past reports, OBP found that most vessels are adhering to the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC), as instructed in the Best Management Practices (BMP), instead of taking a shorter route, such as cutting the Socotra Gap. Traffic appears to have returned to pre-piracy shipping pattern, as was the trend in 2015 and 2016, despite threats posed by conflict spillover in Yemen.

East Africa: Cost of Prosecution and Imprisonment

OBP’s calculations for prosecution and imprisonment related to acts of piracy and armed robbery in East Africa spanned four regions. In total, the cost of prosectution and imprisonment in 2017 is estimated at $6,240,434.40.

East Africa: Prosecution and Imprisonment Regional Cost Breakdown

Africa (less Kenya, Seychelles, and Mauritius)

Pirate Trials 0
Average Cost per Trial $228
Total Trial Cost 0
Pirates Imprisoned 608
Cost per Year of Imprisonment 10
Total Imprisonment Cost $443,840
Total Cost $443,840


Pirate Trials 4
Average Cost per Trial $7,314
Total Trial Cost $29,256
Pirates Imprisoned 236
Cost per Year of Imprisonment $376
Total Imprisonment Cost $88,620
Total Cost $117,876

Europe and Japan

Pirate Trials 0
Average Cost per Trial 97
Total Trial Cost 0
Pirates Imprisoned 97
Cost per Year of Imprisonment $47,794
Total Imprisonment Cost $4,635,797
Total Cost $4,635,797

North America

Pirate Trials 1
Average Cost per Trial $307,355
Total Trial Cost $307,355
Pirates Imprisoned 26
Cost per Year of Imprisonment $28,284
Total Imprisonment Cost $735,384
Total Cost $1,042,739

East Africa: Cost of Labor

Cost of Labor Breakdown

Labor Type Cost for 2016 Cost for 2017
IBF HRA $66 million $78 million
Captivity Pay $564,000 $71,000
Total $66,564,000 $78,071,000

In addition to the mental, physical, and emotional toll that hostages and their families experience, they also endure a significant financial burden. Most seafarers come from developing nations, where their entire household often subsists on their earnings. Using the Maritime Labour Convention-mandated minimum wage of $23 a day, the 8 remaining crewmembers of Siraj lost $67,000 in expected income in 2017 alone, bringing the total loss since their initial capture to $310,000.

Due to increased personal risk from piracy threats, several collective bargaining agreements developed through the International Bargaining Forum (IBF), International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), and national seafarers' unions have identified specific areas within which seafarers are entitled to additional pay.

East Africa: Cost of Insurance

Assuming that the Western Indian Ocean Listed Region (WIOR) accounted for 50 percent of all War Risk Area  3 premiums in 2017 and that the change in net premiums from 2016 was negative 30 percent, the additional premiums paid by ships transiting the WIOR Listed Area totaled around $41.6 million.

A significant number of ship operators take out kidnap and ransom (K&R) insurance as additional protection for the ship’s crew. OBP estimates that in 2017, approximately 12 percent of all ships transiting the HRA bought K&R insurance at a total cost of nine million dollars.

Piracy may also result in higher cargo insurance premiums. A comprehensive estimate of piracy-related costs is impossible, but the trajectory of costs can be determined based on a comparison of the risk scores assigned by the Joint Cargo Committee from year to year. Risk scores spiked in the Gulf of Aden due to a rise in incidents of piracy and other emerging regional threats. Over the course of 2017, the risk score rose from an elevated threat level of 2.4 to a high level of 2.8. However, there was a consistent upturn in risk over the latter half of 2017, and Somalia ended the year with a 3.9. Based on these risk scores, cargo insurance costs in the WIOR can be assumed to be within historical norms.

East Africa: Cost of Stolen Goods

Cost of Stolen Goods Breakdown

Item Stolen Cost
Ship Stores and Equipment $84,375
Personal Effects $0
Total $84,375



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  • 1. Crew nationalities were not specified in each reported incident. This number, therefore, only includes incidents where nationalities and number of seafarers are known.
  • 2. Costs calculated in this table only include those which could be ascertained by Oceans Beyond Piracy. Consequently, some organizations have been included here, but their budgets have not been included. This does not mean that these organizations have ceased operations or have not allocated capital towards counter-piracy initiatives.
  • 3. The War Risk Area is defined by the Joint War Committee. More detail about the listed areas can be found at http://www.lmalloyds.com/lma/jointwar