Little has been heard recently about pirates terrorizing the Horn of Africa off the Somali coast. Two or three years ago, reports of Somali pirates seizing a vessel and crew were not uncommon. Hostages were taken. Lives were lost. Hundreds of millions of dollars was paid out in ransom. Shipping was disrupted.
The threat to safety and commercial shipping raised an alarm that drew an international response. It has succeeded in reducing the attacks significantly.
So far this year, pirates have succeeded in only nine of 46 attempted hijackings, according to data released by the U.S. Navy, which is part of a multinational counterpiracy task force of 25 to 30 warships patrolling the region. That is down from 34 successful attacks out of 222 attempted assaults in 2011. In 2010, pirates succeeded in 68 of 239 attacks.
The international flotilla of a dozen nations patrolling the shipping corridor is one reason for the reduction. Shippers have added armed guards and taken other security measures to repel boarding attempts. Multinational forces have successfully raided pirate havens to free hostages. Captured pirates have been prosecuted.
However, Vice Adm. Mark I. Fox, the Navys deputy chief for operations, plans and strategy, told the New York Times, the pirates are very adaptable and very flexible.
The success is noteworthy, but vigilance is still required.