Our view of Somali piracy as the Afghanistan of international shipping has been bolstered by a study made by the US-based One Earth Future foundation as part of its Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) project. This is a longish war and it’s costing lots of money. The approximated total economic cost of piracy, mainly arising from the Somali kind: $7-10 billion per year. The OBP estimate gives some idea of the magnitude of the Somali piracy problem but not its complexity. It also tells nothing about the hidden costs.

Here’s the eye-popping table of costs from “The Economic Cost of Piracy“, which analyses the cost of piracy in three regions (the Horn of Africa, Nigeria/Gulf of Guinea and the Malacca Straits) but focuses on Somali piracy for obvious reasons:

Statistics from the International Maritime Bureau shed further light on the problem. According to the IMB, a total of 53 ships were hijacked and 1,181 seafarers captured by pirates last year. Hijackings off the coast of Somalia accounted for 92% of the ship seizures (49 vessels hijacked and 1,016 crew members taken hostage). As of end-2010, 28 ships and 638 hostages were still being held for ransom by Somali pirates.

The loss of life is bad enough: world-wide, a total of eight seafarers killed. What about the mental anguish, the emotional torture, of those taken hostage and their loved ones who await word of their fate? Or the anxiety and fear of every seafarer whose ship has to navigate through pirate-infested zones? Such costs cannot be measured. They’re not part of the economics of war. ~Barista Uno

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