Global piracy costs billions, says study

Somali pirate
Image caption Piracy is particularly prevalent off the Somali coast

Maritime piracy costs the global economy between $7bn (£4.4bn) and $12bn (£7.6bn) a year, a study says.

The report, compiled by US think-tank One Earth Future, calculated the amount from the costs of ransom, security equipment and the impact on trade.

The majority of costs came from piracy off Somalia, it says.

Although the costs are said to be difficult to assess, one researcher estimated they had increased roughly five-fold since 2005.

Despite an international effort to patrol waters, the number of reported incidents of piracy has risen over recent years, and the areas in which they operate has grown.

'Treating the symptoms'

The study, launched at the offices of UK think-tank Chatham House, said there had been some 1,600 acts of piracy, causing the death of over 54 people, since 2006.

Looking at the problem in three regions - the Horn of Africa, Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea, and the Malacca Straits - the report suggests that the biggest costs arise from re-routing ships to avoid risky areas, which is estimated at between $2.4bn and $3bn.

Meanwhile, about $2bn is spent on naval operations off the coast of Somalia each year.

"Some of these costs are increasing astronomically," said researcher Anna Bowden from the Colorado-based One Earth Future Foundation, which conducted research for the study.

"What is even more concerning is that all these are simply treating the symptoms. Almost nothing is being done to treat the root cause."

At the start of this year, around 500 seafarers from more than 18 countries were being held hostage by pirates around the world.

Somalia has been ravaged by internal conflict for two decades, and pirates have flourished amid the lawlessness.

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