Somali pirates are attacking ships less frequently now than in years past, but they will remain a threat, according to a report by Stratfor Global Intelligence.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia has dropped off dramatically in 2012. Successful ship hijackings have decreased from 31 in 2011 (and 49 in 2010) to only four so far in 2012. Attacks against ships have also decreased, falling from 199 reported attacks in the first nine months of 2011 to 70 attacks over the same span in 2012—a 65 percent drop.
The report attributes the drop to several factors, including armed guards on many commercial ships and "better coordination between foreign naval patrols."
"To date, pirates have never successfully hijacked a ship that had armed guards," the report says.
The report says that while the cost of piracy is rising, the Somali government’s inability to control its territory and the poor economic conditions on the uncontrolled coast will allow piracy to continue.
In essence, the commercial shippers and naval forces have adopted a siege strategy—they hope to starve the pirates of resources, forcing them to give up. Somali pirates held about 20 ships at any given time in 2010; they currently hold 11. As the pirates hijack fewer ships, and as armed guards make piracy more dangerous, the entire enterprise is looking less lucrative and appealing.
Ending the threat of piracy will not be cheap, however. The "cost of preventing piracy off the coast of Somalia is substantially higher than the costs piracy inflicts. Nevertheless, shipping companies are willing to pay a premium to prevent disruptions in their operations."