But experts note that the countries patrolling the waters are not the ones whose ships are at risk. In other words, for example, the United States is essentially watching over ships that aren’t its own, Mc-Knight said. And with budgets tight and the number of incidents down, there may be a tendency to pull back on the part of the countries patrolling those waters. Of course, countries like the United States use the goods being transported, so they do have a stake in the viability of the waterways even if it is not their fleet at risk. But the protection the United States is offering does not come cheap.
Piracy around the Somali coast cost the global economy $7 billion in 2011, according to advocacy group One Earth Future. Twenty percent of that comes from government counter-piracy operations. Experts question whether governments are always going to feel that the cost of operating so far from home is worth the expenditures.
McKnight, along with John A. C. Cartner, author of Defending against Pirates: The International Law of Small Arms, Armed Guards and Privateers; Advanfort President Will Watson; and Charles N. Dragonette, a retired U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence analyst, all expressed the view that countries are going to eventually pull their navies out, leaving merchants to fend for themselves. These experts shared their views at a Washington, D.C., press conference announcing the launch of the online magazine Piracy Daily.
It’s not a matter of if the navies are pulled, but when, they said. When that occurs, you can expect to see a few things start to happen, says McKnight. In the absence of government forces, merchant ships are likely to abandon safer routes like the IRTC in favor of faster ones. The experts also predict incidents will increase as pirates try to take back control of the sea. In other words, the gains of the last few years may be lost.