East African energy development could raise future maritime security concerns
23 October 2012
Offshore - Somali pirates no longer benefit from the easy pickings available in years past. Naval operations are increasingly successful, and for the most part, ships transiting the High Risk Area (HRA) are a more difficult prey for pirates than they were in 2010. Hardening measures, armed guards, and citadels have pushed down success rates for pirates. In 2010 around one in three attacks may have ended in a hijack. Now, it is fewer than one in 10.
Looking toward the longer term, if commercial shipping transiting the HRA remains relatively well protected, attack success rates will continue at their current level, or drop lower. In response, tactics will naturally be forced to evolve to ensure the survival of the increasingly inefficient Somali pirate business model.
As time goes on and fewer successful hijacks occur in the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, criminals could look further south. The increase in energy exploration in the waters off East Africa could provide new and particularly attractive potential targets over the coming years.
As the US Geological Survey estimates, major gas finds over the past year have cemented East Africa as a future energy exporting region. Mozambique's offshore Rovuma basin alone is estimated to hold up to 100 tcf of natural gas, while discoveries by Statoil and ExxonMobil since the start of 2012 have pushed Tanzania's estimated offshore gas reserves to around 20 tcf. Further licensing for 16 offshore blocks there is expected. Additionally, thousands of kilometers of seismic work is underway off Seychelles, and exploratory drilling is planned for Kenya's southern offshore blocks.