30 January 2024 London. Salama Fikira Group, a leading global security and risk management firm, today underscored the resurgence of Somali piracy in the strategically vital maritime corridors of the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, against the backdrop of increasing Houthi-led, Iranian-sponsored attacks in the region. Despite a perceived decline in piracy threats, recent incidents indicate the menace has not been eradicated and remains a formidable challenge.
LT COL Conrad Thorpe OBE (retd), Board Chairman of Salama Fikira, emphasises, “The hijacking of a bulk carrier off the coast of Somalia on the 14th of December is the first since 2017. While unusual, it is not surprising given the Somali piracy capability has never been relinquished.” Thorpe warned that the tactics employed, including the use of a mother ship, enable pirates to operate at sea for extended periods and at considerable distances, catching ship owners off guard.
The Somali pirates, once a significant concern between 2008 and 2016, saw a decline in activity due to concerted international efforts addressing both security and economic issues in the region. SF Group, with unparalleled experience in dealing with Somali piracy targets, played a crucial role during this period, supporting thousands of vessels with highly trained armed and unarmed security teams.
Crispin Kennedy, Director, and head of SF Group’s maritime division noted “SF Group developed a robust maritime security capability honed during the initial period of Somali pirate activity. The company takes pride in delivering the highest standards of protection with particular regard for the protection of human rights. With our unique experience gained in the region we continue to develop ship protection strategies for the benefit of our partners and clients.”
The recent uptick in Somali piracy coincides with Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, following the group’s 26 incidents since November 2023. International naval presence in the Indian Ocean has recently diminished due to diverging priorities with emerging Red Sea threats. This shift in resources is inadvertently providing an opportunity for Somali-based Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) to intensify their activities.
Thorpe explains, “The pirates’ activity through December and January targeting both shipping vessels and commercial ships, indicates we are going to see more of this sort of criminal activity over the next few months as naval interests are increasingly distracted by the Houthi threat.”
SF Group recognises the pirates are expanding their reach into the Arabian Sea and northern Indian Ocean, targeting ships away from the perceived Houthi threat area. The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) and Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHoA) have issued warnings regarding a pirate action group operating offshore Somalia, suggesting the potential use of a mother ship for maritime-related crimes.
Kennedy notes, “SF Group’s maritime division continues to bring its unique experience to bear on behalf of our partners and clients. The recent incidents underscore the need for heightened vigilance and proactive measures to counter the evolving threat of Somali piracy. Shipowners should be alert to pirate activity at long distances from the Somalia coast.”
SF Group advises stakeholders, including ship owners and operators, to remain vigilant, implement robust security measures, and collaborate with international maritime security efforts to ensure the safety of their crews, vessels and cargos.
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About Salama Fikira Group
Salama Fikira is an international risk management company founded in Kenya in 2005. The company was started by Conrad Thorpe OBE when he returned home to Kenya after a diverse career in the UK Armed Forces. Today the company supports clients in over 50 countries around the world enabling the clients to operate in challenging and complex environments. The company has provided maritime security services since 2006 and supports a range of shipping clients including Global Energy Companies, private shipping companies, and support to offshore projects.
Crispin Kennedy is a Director of Salama Fikira Group and a Board member of the Geneva based International Code of Conduct Association looking to further protection of human rights in the security Industry.