Piracy – a threat to German ships, too

Modern Piracy poses a serious threat to shipping. They endanger ships and their crews – and thereby safe and unhindered passage on important international trade routes. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), 120 piracy attacks and armed robberies committed against ships were reported worldwide in 2023 (previous year: 115). 

For many years, the VDR has been making great efforts to work with all essential stakeholders at the national, European and international levels to come up with viable security solutions for countering piracy at sea. The top priority in these efforts is to protect seafarers. In response to these persistent threats, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) published a comprehensive guide on maritime security in April 2021 that is geared towards shipping companies, seafarers and government authorities and offers specific instructions on how to act in a wide range of threat scenarios.

Hot spot West Africa

The situation off West Africa has gotten worse since at least the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. An initial glance at the absolute figures does point to a decrease in attacks, but the area in which the pirates operate has expanded significantly. Particularly worrisome is the fact that, since 2020, a sizeable number of vessels have been attacked far from their territorial waters and in some cases up to 250 nautical miles out on the high seas. This trend poses a major challenge to shipping companies and their crews, as making adjustments to routes no longer ensures their security. 

Most of the reported kidnappings at sea worldwide now take place off West Africa. To make matters worse, it has been observed that pirates have become more brutal in recent years and have better technical equipment at their disposal. 

The shipping industry has long been calling on coastal countries to do more to combat piracy in their waters in a lasting manner. The VDR therefore demands that there should always be an up-to-date and reliable overview of the situation off West Africa for maritime shipping to be able to assess risks better, as is the case for the situation off East Africa. In addition, Germany and the European Union must do everything in their power to remedy this problem together with the coastal states and to protect German ships. 

The Singapore Strait

In Southeast Asia, 45% of all piracy attacks take place in the Singapore Strait. German shipping companies have already been impacted by them. Most attacks are carried out against bulk carriers and tankers. The attackers are usually less violent than those off West Africa, as they are focused on stealing cargo and only rarely on kidnapping for ransom payments.

Off Somalia

Operation Atalanta of the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR), which has been underway since 2008, has made a significant contribution to enhancing security off the coast of Somalia. Having multinational forces present to safeguard the delivery of aid supplies has greatly reduced piracy off the Horn of Africa in recent years. In addition, the VDR had successfully campaigned at that time for armed security teams to be permitted to sail on board German-flagged ships so as to boost security in particularly hazardous shipping areas. 

The VDR advocates for Operation Atalanta to be continued on a permanent basis, as this is essential for ensuring security on one of the most important trade routes for shipping: the sea lane leading to and from the Suez Canal. The causes of piracy off Somalia are poverty and the lack of future prospects for the local population. As long as these problems are not solved in a durable manner, terminating Operation Atalanta would immediately exacerbate the security situation for shipping off Somalia.