Thanks to Rod Blagojevich and Bernie Madoff, the Somali pirates aren’t the media stars they were a couple weeks ago. For a while there, the story got so big that even piracy insurance became a big story, and investors knocked down the shipping stocks on higher costs (either that, or they got slammed for other reasons, but that was the narrative of the day).
Well guess what: It’s all just a media (yes, that’s us) creation. How can that be, you ask? Benjamin H. Friedman at [email protected] reminds us:
Remember the summer of the shark? That was 2001, when the media, feeding on a few high profile incidents, gave Americans the impression that they faced an outbreak of shark attacks, when in fact shark attacks were down. Something similar may be happening today with piracy.
If you’re reading the news these days, you are likely under the impression that an explosion of piracy threatens global shipping. But according to statistics kept by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy is not occurring at an unusual rate this year.
Here’s a chart depicting incidents of piracy over the last few years:
Here’s what did change, notes Friedman:
In recent years, piracy has more than tripled in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia — from 21 attacks in 2003 to 63 through three quarters this year. But that growth is not enough to offset the downturn elsewhere. Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Malacca Straits together saw 207 attacks in 2003 but only 65 last year. The total in those waters this year will be even lower.
Of course, it’s an amusing story (pirates!) and simply saying that there’s been a Somali piracy spike isn’t much of an interesting story. So piracy is back, it is.