According to media reports, Somali pirate gangs have managed to secure a record ransom of $9.5 million (US) for the release of the largest vessel ever seized. The MT Samho Dream was captured last April off the Horn of Africa while sailing about 1500 kilometers southeast of the Gulf Aden, while en route from Iraq to the United States with a load of crude oil valued at around $170 million. Her crew of 24 are said to be in good condition after spending seven months in captivity, though the supertanker has yet to leave for open sea.
When the Samho Dream was seized back in the early hours of 4 April, her capture immediately raised the bar in terms of how big the prizes are that pirates are going after. Yet since the ship and her crew were taken, there has been precious little reported about this situation.
Writing the day after this immense vessel was hijacked (see here), I wondered if she would garner the largest ransom ever seen. And, unfortunately, I've been proven right. I wish I'd been wrong.
There appears to be a change happening within pirate cartels in Somalia, another metastasis of their various criminal enterprises. Some are garnering huge payouts - meaning we will see the $10 million barrier broken next year, unless the situation drastically changes. But others are feeling the pinch of reduced returns on their investments, leading them to more frustration, and actions such as the sinking of vessels deemed of insufficient value (see here). As well, there is the pressure coming the main Islamist insurgents in Somalia.
Regardless, the situation with piracy off the Horn of Africa is currently morphing, evolving. But is anyone noticing?