Insurance: Hardly any ships sink – but the danger from pirates is growing

Insurance: Hardly any ships sink – but the danger from pirates is growing

The proverbial sinking ship appears to be largely a thing of the past. But other age-old threats to shipping remain – including wars and pirates.

According to Allianz figures, the number of ships sinking worldwide has fallen to a record low. Last year only 26 larger ships sank worldwide. That was a good third less than in the previous year, and a decline of over 70 percent in a ten-year comparison, as the industrial insurer Allianz Commercial writes in the new edition of its annual report on shipping risks. But in addition to the current wars and conflicts, another old danger threatens ships and their crews: pirates.

According to Allianz, traffic on the world’s oceans has become much safer within just a few decades: in the 1990s, an average of more than 200 ships sank every year.

In addition to storms and stranding on the coast, pirates are also one of the oldest risks in shipping, and according to Allianz, piracy is experiencing something of a comeback: last year there were 120 known pirate attacks worldwide, five more than in 2022. According to Allianz Commercial, the most dangerous region in this regard is the Gulf of Guinea on the coast of West Africa, followed by the Strait of Singapore in Southeast Asia.

Big concern: piracy in the Horn of Africa

But the big concern is a resurgence of piracy in the Horn of Africa, the report said. Somali pirates hijacked a ship there in December 2023 for the first time since 2017, and there have been several other attacks since then.

According to the company’s shipping experts, the inspiration for Somali pirates probably comes from the many attacks by Islamist Houthi militias on merchant ships in the Red Sea in the wake of the Gaza war. Wars like those in Gaza and Ukraine also have an indirect impact on shipping safety by creating or promoting subsequent risks.

As an example, the authors cite an international “shadow fleet” of an estimated 600 to 1,400 oil tankers that export Russian oil and have been involved in at least 50 incidents to date, including fires, collisions and oil spills. “These are mostly older, poorly maintained ships that operate outside international regulations and often without appropriate insurance,” said Justus Heinrich, head of shipping insurance in Germany and Switzerland at Allianz Commercial. “This poses serious environmental and safety risks.”

The company is the subsidiary of the Munich DAX group responsible for industry and corporate customers.

Source: Stern

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