Blogs / Analysis Blog

Profiling Somali Piracy

Analysis of Piracy Around the Horn of Africa

The recent hostage rescue by US Navy SEALs off the coast of Somalia has focused media attention on the growing threat of piracy to international shipping in the Horn of Africa. We have applied our advanced analysis capabilities to data published by the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre,  as well as open source news reports. We have focused on geo-temporal patterns of attacks, as well as the financing network of the Central Regional Coast Guard, a federation of Somali pirates:

Here are some of the highlights of our findings:

Worldwide Piracy (2 min 33 sec)

The IMB dataset contains over 1000 piracy events across the globe, ranging from boarding of yachts to hijackings of chemical tankers. With the aid of the Heatmap, we quickly identified areas with significant pirate activity, such as the Gulf of Guinea, the Malacca Strait and waters around Indonesia, and the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia’s east coast.

Gulf of Aden (2 min 01 sec)

There is a dramatic increase in piracy in the Gulf of Aden beginning in 2008 and continuing to the present. With Palantir’s advanced visualization capabilities, a couple of interesting patterns emerge:

  • Before the fall of 2008, piracy events were somewhat scattered in the eastern end of the Gulf.
  • Beginning in August 2008, there is a surge of attacks that occur in a band about 60 km off the Yemeni coast.
  • In mid-February 2009, a new band begins to appear another 50 km further out into the Gulf.
  • It’s possible that shipping companies shifted the shipping lane in response to the surge in piracy along the original route.

Somali’s East Coast (3 min 52 sec)

Leveraging integrated geo-statistical-temporal analysis capabilities, we noted that attacks off the coast of Mogadishu are both more successful and further off the coast in early 2009, possibly due to better trained pirates with better equipment.

Network Analysis of Ransom Payments (7 min 04 sec)

According to a Kenyan official, Somali pirates received $150 million in ransom in 2008. In this segment we use open source information to investigate networks of payments to the Central Regional Coast Guard, a federation of Somali pirates.

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