The United Nations has estimated that the cost of piracy on the global shipping industry could be as high as $12 billion, according to Arabian Business.com.
It has issued a new warning of the high costs and has called for collective action from UN agencies, governments and military forces to combat the problem.
Efthimios E Mitropoulos, secretary general of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), said piracy had taken a high toll on the industry, particularly in the Indian Ocean.
“During 2010 alone, 4,185 seafarers were attacked by pirates using firearms – even rocket propelled grenades, 1,090 were taken hostage, and 516 were used as human shields," he said.
"No fewer than 488 were reported suffering significant psychological or physical abuse,” he added.
“While innocent seafarers bear the brunt of [pirates’] crimes, the world economy suffers too – an annual cost that is now estimated to be between $7 billion and $12 billion,” he said.
Mitropoulos said that piracy has become an entrenched problem that cannot be solved by one entity alone.
“While IMO has positioned itself in the epicentre of the concerted efforts being made, it cannot alone supply an instant solution to the issue,” he said.
He stressed that the participation of governments, shipping companies, ship operators and crews, military forces, and UN agencies would all need to act in an orchestral manner if they are to combat piracy successfully.
“Governments need to back up their oft-stated concern over the situation by deploying military and other resources commensurate, in numbers and technology, with the scale of the problem and with a realistic chance of dealing with it effectively,” he said.
“More needs to be done, including the capture, prosecution and punishment of all those involved in piracy; the tracing of ransom money; and the confiscation of proceeds of crime derived from hijacked ships, if the ultimate goal of consigning piracy to the realms of history is to be achieved,” he added.
Earlier this month, analysts said Gulf states must ramp up measures to fend off the growing problem of marine pirate attacks, or risk becoming a hotbed for hijackings.
Oman in August saw two attacks on ships near the port of Salalah, with one tanker and crew snatched from inside the port in front of the coast guard, and experts warn these attacks may be the tip of the iceberg.
“The problem will only worsen in the short-term as the Monsoon season is due to end in mid-September. The Gulf of Oman might be a new area of focus, which will pose a concern for Emirati shipping interests which must pass through the area,” said John Drake, a senior risk consultant at AKE Group.
Last month, organisers of the Volvo Ocean Race were forced to amend their route amid fears of piracy in the Indian Ocean, impacting the sailing race’s planned route to and from Abu Dhabi.
Plans for the boats to sail through an East African corridor in the Indian Ocean on the second leg from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, and again in the third leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya in China, have been scrapped, organisers said.
Instead, boats will race from Cape Town to a secret ‘safe haven’ port and will then be shipped on a transport ship closer to Abu Dhabi before racing into the UAE capital.
The same process in reverse will then be put in place for the third leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya in China.
Source: Arabian Business.com