Headline From the Land of D’oh: Notorious Somali pirate quits: Now is shipping safe?

A recent CNN article which noted that the retirement of the pirate leader Mohamed Abdi Hassan, also known as “Afweyne,” has generated much media coverage, but the real significance of his announcement is the indication it gives of how Somalia’s pirates currently view their business model and that it appears that hijacking vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden is no longer seen as a relatively risk-free affair concluded that while piracy off the country’s coast will not be ended conclusively … it might be contained to a manageable level.

Depending on what you conclude a manageable level to be, that might happen, but shipping is NOT safe. If a pirate can make 10 times the average annual salary in one hijacking, and one hijacking can command a 5M ransom, even with the introduction of international naval ports, armed guards aboard vessels, and best practices, piracy is not going to stop. First of all, it’s still way too lucrative when the right ship is passing through. While it is true that an average shipment of consumer goods is many times safer, the risk for high-value petroleum, weapons, pharmaceutical, and hi-tech shipments is still there. If there’s a 100M worth of easily-moved cargo on the ship, and pirates know about it, the risk is there — especially with more organized crime getting involved in supply chain thievery. Secondly, when a void is created — there’s always a rush to fill it. Recent warfare against gangs across North and South America has shown us that if multiple gangs are vying for a territory, and the biggest one is wiped out, violence escalates as the smaller gangs jockey for position.

The reality is that, for some of you, shipping is now more dangerous than ever. And any article that tries to insist otherwise is giving you a false sense of security that is even more dangerous. Especially when your cargo is more valuable than drugs and guns.

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