Update of Efforts to Combat Piracy
Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Hearing on Update of Efforts to Combat Piracy
April 10, 2013
(Remarks as Prepared)
The Subcommittee is meeting this morning to review efforts by the United States and the international community to respond to piracy on the high seas and prevent future attacks. Since the Subcommittee’s last hearing on this topic, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of attacks off the Horn of Africa. I commend industry, labor, the federal government, and the international community for working together and taking strong actions to improve the safety and security of the crews, vessels, and cargoes transiting those strategically important waters.
Unfortunately, although the situation has improved on the East Coast of Africa, it has deteriorated on the West Coast. Attacks on vessels and mariners in the Gulf of Guinea have risen nearly 20 percent from 2011 to 2012. Pirates are venturing further from shore and using more violent tactics. In just the last few weeks, pirates operating out of Nigeria hijacked more than five vessels, taking more than 20 mariners hostage, and killing one crewmember.
The United States is not immune from the violence. Since 2008, pirates have attacked or attempted to attack 20 U.S.-flagged vessels. Pirates took three Americans hostage, including two working on a U.S.-flagged offshore supply vessel in the Gulf of Guinea. In 2011, pirates ruthlessly murdered a retired couple from Southern California and their two friends from Washington State as they sailed through the Indian Ocean.
In addition to the human cost, piracy impacts our economy by driving up the cost of moving critical commodities. By some estimates, the cost of piracy on the world economy is more than $7 billion. The cost to the U.S. taxpayer to provide Navy patrols and reimburse industry for their costs to move defense and humanitarian cargo through high risk waters is immense, totaling more than $65 million in a recent year.
Finally, I am concerned with the impact piracy is having on our national security. Piracy has become a multimillion dollar criminal enterprise funded by ransoms and the black market sales of stolen oil and other cargoes. Tracking ransom payments and capturing pirate financiers has proven tremendously difficult. This is concerning as we know terrorist groups are operating in Africa. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on what actions they are taking to improve our ability to disrupt pirate financing.
Piracy is recognized internationally as a crime against all nations and it is a crime to which all nations must respond. This hearing provides us with the chance to examine ways to respond to the ongoing threat. It is important for us to find solutions to minimize, if not end, this threat and its impact on our citizens, economy, and national security.
# # #
Rear Admiral Servidio, Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy, United States Coast Guard | written testimony
Rear Admiral Joseph Kuzmick, Director, Operations and Plans, United States Navy | written testimony
The Honorable David Matsuda, Administrator, Maritime Administration | written testimony
The Honorable Thomas Kelly, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Department of State | written testimony
Mr. Neil Smith, Head of Underwriting, Lloyd's Market Association | written testimony