n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Maritime piracy : editorial

Special Edition 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Maritime piracy began to present a serious challenge off the east coast of Africa in 2005 when ships carrying food aid to Somalia were attacked by Somali pirates. These attacks prompted the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to call on states, operating warships and aircraft in the vicinity, to assist with preventing these attacks (International Maritime Organisation (IMO), 2005 & 2007).1 The number of attacks on ships off Somalia, however, continued to rise vertiginously, contributing to Africa becoming the new hot spot for piracy in 2007, with the number of attacks against ships off Africa, recorded by the International Chamber of Commerce and International Maritime Bureau (ICC-IMB), for the first time exceeding the number of attacks recorded in Southeast Asia (International Chamber of Commerce and International Maritime Bureau (ICC-IMB), 2007 & 2013). Contributing to this record number of attacks off Africa in 2007 were, apart from 31 attacks off Somalia and 13 attacks in the Gulf of Aden, 42 attacks recorded against ships off Nigeria (ICC-IMB, 2007 & 2013). This state of affairs continued until the end of 2012 when the attacks against ships by Somali pirates off the east coast were brought under control and began to abate due to patrols by coalition navies as well as the navies of individual states, increased military action on suspected craft used by pirates, military land based operations against pirates, the use of best management practices by ship operators and the use of armed guards on board ships (International Chamber of Commerce and International Maritime Bureau (ICC-IMB), 2013:22). Once again the hot spot for piracy moved back to South East Asia. Attacks off the west coast of Africa, however, continue unabated and are causes for serious concern for states in the region as well as for Southern Africa. In 2011, due to Somali pirates attacking a vessel as far south as the Mozambique Channel, it became necessary to deploy units of the South African Navy, for the first time, on a continuous basis, in the Mozambique Channel, to prevent further attacks. On 13 December 2011 three East Africa member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the three governments on maritime security co-operation. The MOU gives the forces of the participating countries the right to patrol, search, and arrest, seize and undertake hot pursuit operations on any maritime crime suspect or piracy (Mashamaite, 2012).

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