Modern day piracy emerged as an undeniable worldwide security threat in 2008 when it was reported by the International Maritime bureau (IMB) that there was an astonishing 75% worldwide increase in piracy in comparison to the previous year. Piracy poses a very real threat to global peace and security because it disrupts global trade and threatens human lives. In response to this rising threat, in 2008, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to allow countries to send warships to high-incidence areas such as the shores of Somalia. Since then, the ongoing risks of supply disruption, especially for resources such as crude oil, have prompted several countries to take action against piracy.
For example, on a trip to Djibouti and the Middle East in August 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the possibility of an increased Japanese naval presence in this region. According to the IMB there were twelve reported attacks on vessels in or near the Gulf of Aden in 2012. With Somali Pirates increasingly becoming active on waters distant to their homeland, Japan’s desire to increase their naval presence in close proximity to the oil producing nations of the Middle East is understandable.
In response to this ongoing threat, Japan intends to dispatch patrol ships and airplanes to Djibouti, adding to their already established Maritime Self-Defense base in the country. This will help Japan protect vessels near the Horn of the Africa. To that end, the Japanese Prime Minister also visited Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain.
As a resource-poor country, Japanese imports from the Gulf region make up 70% of Japan’s petroleum supply. Bolstering security in the Perisan Gulf is thus crucial to securing their energy supply. During the Prime Minister’s visit, the Gulf Cooperation Council – composed of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Oman- and the Japanese delegation agreed to initiate bilateral talks to ensure the safe passage of oil tankers through the Persian Gulf.
It seems that global efforts to prevent piracy through an increased presence of naval forces may have had an impact. Comparing incidents of piracy from 2008 and 2012, the International Maritime Bureau notes a drastic drop in the number of vessels attacked across the world. The most noticeable is that there were 116 attacks on vessels in 2008 off the coast of Somalia and a mere 7 in 2012.It should be noted, however, reduction in piracy could also be attributed to unfavorable environmental circumstances, for example, the unusually extreme monsoon season that occured in the Indian Ocean and the Arab Sea during the summer and the winter of 2012.
Japan’s anti-piracy measures may help to inform Canadian efforts to secure global waterways. Currently, Canada is a part of a voluntary member of the 29 Nation Maritime Naval Force and is actively involved in its task force CTF-150. This task force is responsible for securing shipments moving across five million square kilometers of water in regions including the Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean, and the Gulf of Oman. Canada also is an active member of the UN’s Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia which promotes discussions on piracy in the area.
For the time being, Canada’s initiative is sufficient for tackling piracy, but our approach must be taken with caution . It is simply too difficult to assess the long-term impact of our current stance towards piracy without understanding who the pirates are and what the motives behind piracy is. Perhaps piracy emerges from poverty and famine. Countries facing piracy ought to commit resources to understanding the problem they face. It may be that the most effective way to tackle piracy is to tackle poverty instead.