Maritime piracy costs the global shipping industry anywhere from $3.5 billion to upwards of $8 billion a year, according to Ron Widdows, group president of Neptune Orient Lines and chairman of the World Shipping Council.
Widdows gave his estimate Monday during a conference on piracy in Dubai that opened just days after maritime watchdog the International Maritime Bureau said worldwide pirate attacks in the first three months of 2011 reached the highest quarterly number ever at 142.
The sharp rise was driven by a surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia, where 97 attacks were recorded in the first quarter of 2011, up from 35 in the same period last year.
The Somali transitional government's foreign minister Mohammed Abdulahi Omar Asharq told the counter-piracy conference that the world is losing the battle against piracy. "The race between the pirates and the world is being won by the pirates," he said.
Asharq said the solution to piracy lies on land, not at sea. "Consequently the status quo view that manages acts of piracy is no longer a viable strategy. It is equally clear that piracy can only be uprooted on land, where it grows and persists," Asharq said, appealing for international aid.
"The international community must make the urgent and necessary investment in the Somali security forces to build up the capability of the state and to establish its national authority.
"Without this twin strategy of military authority and political reform and reconciliation," which Asharq said the transitional government is also pursuing, "we cannot end the consequences of the civil war in Somalia, and unless we do so, we will not resolve the causes of piracy."