20 February 2017
No 49 | 20 Dec 2013

Strategic Insights No 49

Somalia's pastoral heart: Understanding drivers of insecurity

Andreas Bruvik Westberg

This article, from area specialist Andreas Bruvik Westberg, investigates the broader political economy of pastoral Somalia and finds a more complex dynamic than just viewing the region through the prism of piracy. The Somali economy has surprisingly few bonds to the sea, and where these do exist they are against the backdrop of a country with a “heart that beats to the rhythm of pastoralism”. Looking at these broader drivers of insecurity puts piracy in a wider context, particularly relevant with the decline of piracy seen in 2013. 

Smuggling, fishing and local commerce in the Gulf of Aden

Risk Intelligence Analysts

Continuing the analysis of Somalia and the region, this article looks at patterns of commerce, legal and illegal, in the Gulf of Aden. Perhaps unsurprisingly in the context of pastoralism, livestock exports from Somalia are the dominant economic activity. Still, there is plenty of other activity going on, with fishing dominated by Yemen, and human trafficking that is becoming more controlled by smugglers working out of Djibouti. Piracy has seen high monetary returns, but those revenues have fallen dramatically this year along with the decline in merchant vessel hijackings. This article concludes with a short overview of that decline and explores the reasons behind it. 

Al-Shabab terror attacks and beyond

Dr. Stig Jarle Hansen

As piracy apparently recedes, Somalia’s al-Shahab has reached out beyond that country to conduct terrorist attacks, perhaps most evidenced by the attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Risk Intelligence’s Stig Jarle Hansen provides an analysis of this attack in this article. He puts the attack in its local and regional context – as a retaliation for Kenya’s intervention in Somalia – but also finds a worrying degree of unprofessionalism in the Kenyan response that bodes ill for any future such incidents. 

The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea (Conakry), Liberia, Senegal, and Sierra Leone: Port summary and security overview

Risk Intelligence Analysts

This article continues Strategic Insights’ coverage of security and current conditions in African ports. Libyan ports were covered in SI 47 September 2013 while SI 48 November 2013 featured ports in the western part of North Africa. The current article covers the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea (Conakry), Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The threats and efficacy of local responses vary, emphasising the need to adjust intelligence collection and preventative measures depending on the location. 

Piracy and maritime armed robbery in the Americas

Risk Intelligence Analysts

This article moves away from Africa and analyses the threat of maritime armed robbery in South America, using statistics and incident information from MaRisk by Risk Intelligence from 2009 onwards. These types of incidents are relatively common in the area, despite the absence of hijacking style attacks that are more prevalent in the traditional piracy hotspots. Nonetheless, armed robbery against merchant vessels occurs in several locations, which have shifted over time, again emphasising the need for specific preparedness depending on the particular port of operation. 

No 48 | 18 Nov 2013

Strategic Insights No 48

Tanker hijackings in the Gulf of Guinea

Risk Intelligence Analysts

This article is an excerpt from the Gulf of Guinea tanker hijacking report from Risk Intelligence. The report, containing detailed case studies and drawing on extensive fieldwork in Nigeria, is the first systematic account of the tanker hijackings taking place in the area. These types of attacks, dating from 2010, are enabled in part by the illegal trade in oil products that takes place in the Gulf of Guinea, centred around Nigeria. The excerpt presented here looks solely at the statistical aspects of the attacks with a pattern analysis. 

Following Somalia’s pirate kingpins

James Marcus Bridger

In this article, James Bridger looks at the arrest of pirate ‘kingpin’ Afweyne in Belgium, as well as updates on several other prominent leaders. As Bridger points out, there are some 1,000 alleged pirates that have been captured and jailed or awaiting trial. But only Afweyne can be considered a prominent leader and others like him have – in the main – escaped justice. There remains, therefore, a long way to go before the actual pirate networks in Somalia are dismantled from the top down. 

Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania: Port summary and security overview

Risk Intelligence Analysts

This article provided a detailed report of ports in the western area of North Africa – Morocco, Western Sahara, and Mauritania. The security picture for individual ports varies notably dependent on local criminal and terrorist networks, as well as the security measures in place. Throughout the region, security falls way below the standards expected in Northern Europe, although the main ports in Morocco are comparable with wider European security standards. Expansion is also underway, such as at Tanger-Med to the north-east of Tangier and which features on the cover of this issue. 

Revisiting Yemen in 2013

Dr. Stig Jarle Hansen

This article revisits the security situation in Yemen. The country was profiled back at the beginning of the year in the Strategic Insights forecast issue 2013 (SI 44). With an extensive dialogue process underway at the national political level, as well as changing fortunes for terrorist and insurgent groups, the security picture in undergoing change. But until there is more certainty around these processes, the main conclusions of the forecast back at the beginning of the year remain valid. The article concludes with an overview of the current security situation in the capital, Sana’a. 

No 47 | 18 Sep 2013

Strategic Insights No 47

The future of al-Shabab and the impact on maritime security

Dr. Stig Jarle Hansen

This issue of Strategic Insights opens with two articles on Somalia. From a maritime security perspective, this article gives an assessment of the current state of al-Shabab. The organisation is down, having suffered a number of recent military defeats, but is far from out. The future of the organisation in many ways depends on larger factors in intra-Somali relations, particularly whether al-Shabab’s adversaries can maintain a united political and military front or will become less effective due to internal disputes (Kismayo being a possible source of dispute). Four future scenarios are analysed, with al-Shabab most likely reduced in strength on the ground and ideologically. 

Clans, business and piracy in Somalia

Dr. Stig Jarle Hansen

This article looks at clan identity in Somalia, which is an important source of ‘trust’ where other institutions do not exist to guarantee the rule of law or protect redistribution. The clan system in Somalia can be baffling to outside observes and this article gives an overview of the system and how it relates to piracy. Ultimately, while relations inside and between pirate groups are driven by the profit motive, clan identity adds another layer of relations and a potentially complicating factor in how events play out. 

The threat from militias in Libya

Risk Intelligence Analysts

Libya has not grabbed as many headlines as Egypt and Syria in recent times but the country remains of ongoing interest, particularly in the maritime sector because of its active trade in oil and gas products as well as other commodities. This article provides an overview of the role of militias in Libya as a source of both security and insecurity. An outgrowth of the civil war, many militias are advancing their own agendas, and not always in sync with the efforts of the government’s efforts to establish unified security control over the country. 

Libyan ports report: Safety, security and services

Risk Intelligence Analysts

Competing agendas between the militias and the government in Libya has in many cases left the country’s ports facing an uncertain security picture. This article investigates the main Libyan ports and their current status. In many cases it is business as usual, but in others labour disputes and general insecurity present operational challenges. 

By the numbers: Piracy overview January-August 2013

Risk Intelligence Analysts

The final article in this issue sets out the number of pirate attacks in the first eight months of this year in three hotspots: the Horn of Africa, West Africa, and South East Asia. A quick glance at the numbers reveals some interesting developments to date, such as the declining importance of the Horn of Africa, but also the high number of incidents in the West Africa – specifically the Gulf of Guinea – area. South East Asia also has a high number of incidents, predominantly in the categories of robbery and theft. 

No 46 | 10 Jun 2013

Strategic Insights No 46

The Rise, fall and rebirth of the Puntland Marine Police Force

James Marcus Bridger

Since its inception in 2010, the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) has had a tumultuous history that has provided plenty of fodder for both critics and supporters. This article provides a detailed overview of this history and also considers two options for the PMPF’s future now that reports of its dissolution have proved premature. For now, though, it seems like the PMPF remains dogged by problems of legitimacy, funding, and international acceptance. Since its inception in 2010, the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) has had a tumultuous history that has provided plenty of fodder for both critics and supporters. This article provides a detailed overview of this history and also considers two options for the PMPF’s future now that reports of its dissolution have proved premature. For now, though, it seems like the PMPF remains dogged by problems of legitimacy, funding, and international acceptance. 

Beyond the aircraft carrier?

Sebastian Bruns

Non-traditional security challenges are prominent in many strategists’ minds and this article looks at the evolution of US naval strategy beyond the aircraft carrier. It outlines current thinking on power projection and how these challenges fit into naval strategy debates. In describing the different regional partnerships, the article highlights the successes in addressing these challenges but also notes the tensions for the Navy against a backdrop of ongoing debates over broader missions as well as likely budget cuts.  

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea: As bad as always or getting worse?

Dirk Steffen

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has been under the media spotlight in recent months. This article reviews the evidence to see if this piracy is indeed a new phenomenon. Piracy is not uniform in the region and the article looks at tanker hijackings as well as kidnap-for-ransom attacks against general shipping. Onshore dynamics are at play, particularly with the Nigerian government’s amnesty programme. Tankers remain a lucrative target and their vulnerability is exploited by well-organised criminal groups. Ultimately, it is business as usual. 

The Korean Peninsula: Maritime security for commercial shipping and offshore

Risk Intelligence analysts

The Korean Peninsular has been the focus of attention recently with threats of missile tests and direct military action from North Korea. This article looks specifically at risks to commercial shipping and offshore of this fluid security situation, covering border actions, missile tests, and wider conflict. While direct military threats are a low probability, the situation could change at short notice, requiring additional security measures to be quickly implemented. 

Somalia: Ports overview and update

Risk Intelligence analysts

This article gives an overview of the key ports in Somalia – Mogadishu, Kismayo and Berbera – in light of recent developments in the country, notably the defeats suffered by al-Shabab and the military intervention by Kenya. All the ports have returned to operational status, but certain unique local conditions are worth noting. Overall, the situation in southern Somalia remains fragile while Berbera in Somaliland has perhaps the best security of the former republic of Somalia ports. 

No 45 | 08 Apr 2013

Strategic Insights No 45

Syria's civil war and the strategic importance of its port cities

Alexander Corbeil

This article analyses the civil war in Syria and finds that Syria’s ports are of strategic importance in the civil war and their fate tied inextricably to regime survival – politically, economically and militarily. While the outcome of the conflict is not known, both Latakia and Tartous are unlikely to emerge unscathed. 

Enhance your anti-piracy defences: Life after the Somali piracy decline

Sjoerd J.J. Both

This article covers the current state of Somali piracy and finds that the decline is the perfect opportunity for maritime operators to embed anti-piracy measures into their organisations and operational practices. Quick fix solutions are not going to be sufficient and the article argues that specific maritime security expertise needs to be brought on board to ensure that organisations are ready for future piracy scenarios. 

Maritime crime in the Caribbean: Contemporary threats and responses

Louis Borer

In the Caribbean, maritime threats driven by organised crime – centred on drug trafficking but also with risks of piracy and terrorism around its strategic areas. This article gives an overview and finds that while naval forces are active in the region, there is under-capacity among some important local players. As well, work needs to be done to enhance regional cooperation, exchange programs and knowledge, as well as dealing with differing maritime jurisdictions. 

Western West Africa security outlook – Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau

Risk Intelligence Analysts

This article reviews the situation in western West Africa, in the news recently due to the intervention by France in Mali. Cross-border threats like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are evident, but any regional action is complicated in many cases by a backdrop of internal political instability or conflict, or the presence of organised criminal groups. Maritime operations are usually unaffected, but the developing situation needs monitoring. 

South America in 2013: An overview of security threats

Risk Intelligence Analysts

This article assesses specific maritime threats in South America on a case-by-case and country-by-country basis. Befitting a diverse area, threat levels and specifics vary. As seen elsewhere, political developments can affect the overall maritime security picture and this overview highlights particular developments that operators in the region should be aware of. 

No 44 | 21 Jan 2013

Strategic Insights No 44

Forecasting maritime risk: Methodology and missteps

Guy Wilson-Roberts

This is the third annual Strategic Insights forecast issue. Starting in 2011, we have presented this compendium of forecasts covering the primary global hotspots for maritime risk for the year ahead. The articles presented here focus specifically on maritime risks, either direct threats or the spill over of onshore events into the maritime domain. Knowledge of these threats is not necessarily the power to predict the future, but it is the power to mitigate its impact. 

Nigeria: Domestic insecurity and piracy in the Bight of Benin

Thomas Horn Hansen

Nigeria remains challenged by the activities of Islamist groups in the north and the risk to foreign workers in northern Nigeria is likely to remain high. Although the Niger Delta amnesty programme did not collapse, there has been an increase in organised criminal activity in the region that may increasingly affect offshore activities in 2013. Organised pirate groups – based in Nigeria – have suffered some setbacks in 2012, but are highly flexible and will likely continue to target product tankers in the sub-region. 

Somali piracy in 2013: Few attacks but pirate structures still in place

Stig Jarle Hansen

Absolute numbers of pirate attacks are expected remain low for 2013. However, it is not expected that any of the more important pirate leaders will be captured. Reluctance on behalf of the larger investors and leaders to engage in attack missions, and the diversification of their investment, will mean that they will remain active in the background. Al-Shabab will remain weak in Somalia in the year ahead, but will continue guerrilla-style tactics that will frustrate the Somali government. This will impact on neighbouring Kenya, which is also facing its own tensions with the upcoming election – expected to result in violence and instability. 

Tankers, tugs, territorial disputes, and those on the take: South East Asia’s 2013 maritime security outlook

Karsten von Hoesslin

With greater revenues seen in fuel and product theft over coordinated robberies, the trend of hijackings will continue in 2013 and likely spread beyond the southern South China Sea. The likely emerging area for well-planned robberies and hijackings is the Borneo coast. Finally, the South China Sea territorial disputes will continue to sit in the media spotlight and receive far more attention from a threat perspective than they deserve. Whatever China’s long-term political and strategic intentions are in this area, there is no indication that commercial operations will face any disruption this year. 

A simmering pot: Yemen in 2013

Stig Jarle Hansen and a Risk Intelligence analyst

Yemen will face several severe problems in 2013, but not outright civil war. The situation in the south is not going to be under control but the southern movement (Hirak) is too divided to create a wide insurgency. The northern Shia militants, the Houthis, are expected to remain at an uneasy peace with the government, but not to be de-militarised, and Houthi conflicts with the largest opposition party, al-Islah, will increase, but again not enough to cause a civil war. Al-Qaeda and associated militants will remain active and security on the ground, including for external actors, is expected to deteriorate. 

Threats to maritime business expected in North Africa in 2013

Risk Intelligence Analysts

There is no definitive model as to how the region as a whole is expected to evolve in the coming year. Terrorism activity from AQIM is likely to become widespread and move back to the northern region. Attacks against Western business interests, including the kidnapping of Western workers, are also likely to increase. The civil unrest in Mali is a major concern for the Maghreb and for European countries. Whilst maritime trade should not adversely be affected by terrorism, an attack against the offshore energy infrastructure is predicted by some intelligence agencies as probable. The maritime industry is most likely to be affected by national strikes, which could lead to widespread delays in port facilities. 

Syria and terrorism dominate Eastern Mediterranean security concerns

Risk Intelligence analysts

Events playing out in Syria will be the key determinates of the region’s peace and stability in 2013. Terrorism remains a feature of the region and al-Qaeda is seeking to use the situation in Syria to advance their cause. Assad may yet hold onto power, but the real threat emerges when it looks like he may lose – as geo-political considerations come into play. In the interim, the instability in Syria is being exploited by al-Qaeda to further its regional aims. There is no indication at this stage, however, that the group intends to target international maritime traffic in the region.