What’s Going On?
Modern-day pirates are running amok in the Caribbean and Latin America, according to a report by Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), a non-profit group. Seventy-one pirate attacks were recorded in the region in 2017, representing a 163% increase from the year before.
Why Does It Matter?
No area seems safe; many nations were hit including the coasts of Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia.
Almost 60% of the incidents involved robberies on yachts. More alarmingly some of the incidents resulted in fatalities. In April, at least a dozen fishermen from Guyana went missing or were feared dead following a pirate attack in the area. And a fishing boat captain was shot dead after his ship was attacked in May.
The surge in piracy could have a negative impact on the region’s tourist economies, which already have to contend with an above-average risky 2018 hurricane season. Piracy also poses a threat to the local shipping industry, and to vessels – mostly dry bulk shippers and container shippers – that transport goods to and from the Caribbean.
While OBP did not calculate a total economic cost for piracy and armed robbery in the Caribbean and Latin America, the agency did calculate the value of stolen ship stores and crew belongings. Nearly $1 million in stolen goods were hauled off by the pirates in the 71 recorded attacks.
For an idea of how high the economic costs can be, consider the example of East Africa, where pirates have plagued the Horn of Africa for decades. Last year, there were 54 piracy incidents in that region resulting in an economic cost of $1.4 billion. That’s a slight decrease from 2016’s cost of $1.7 billion, but still a substantial loss. The costs have stabilized in recent years after declining from a peak of $7 billion in 2010. The falling levels of pirate activity are largely due to coordinated activity from governments and shippers to defend the East African coast.