Mariner welfare- Pirates of the Caribbean return
Just as you were beginning to think that maritime was facing enough challenges—COVID-19 affecting millions, business disruptions, mariner repatriation blockades, oil price collapse—an old enemy of shipping is rearing its ugly head again. Piracy, which has been a consistent challenge for shipowners through the millennia, is back in the headlines in force and in “new” areas. Not only are we facing incidents around Africa and the Malacca Straits, but it seems as though Johnny Depp is reprising his role in “Pirates of the Caribbean”, with the recent event in Haiti. Prior to that were incidents in the Gulf of Mexico, sending the message that desperate times are resulting in desperate measures.
While piracy has existed as long as waterborne trade, the last wholesale period was around 2012 off Somalia, which spawned a cottage industry of maritime security companies composed primarily of retired Royal Navy and US Navy SEAL officers. Working with government forces, the scourge was diminished through a combination of convoys and armed guards on board vessels. Additional “hardening up” assets were also deployed, including barbed wire and water cannons to dispel marauders.
With a diffused target area now spanning the globe, what will the 2020 edition look like? Certainly our digitalization and communications tools are better developed, along with the lessons learned along the way. What is the new “business model” of today’s pirates? Are these merely acts of desperation or is there a common thread that can be evaluated in order to predict and prevent?
Since we are mostly working at home and leveraging our Netflix accounts, perhaps binge watching the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise will provide some clues.