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Piracy has never been more in the news than it is at the moment, at least as far as the shipping press is concerned. With over 700 seafarers in captivity as a result of attacks off the coast of Somalia – and much further afield – the mood of the shipping industry seems to have changed, with a new view that armed forces on merchant ships are an alternative, albeit one of last resort.

It will be interesting to see how the US responds to the deaths of four US crew members at the hands of their captors on the Quest.

There was an impressive seminar organised by Maritime London and hosted by Ince & Co recently which once again drove home the message of the scale of the problem. Former special forces Ince partner Stephen Askins, aka Rambo, warned that the time crew members were spending in captivity was lengthening, with all that that implied for their mental and physical welfare.

Norwegian NATO Commander Rune Andersen gave a frank assessment of the position regarding deployment of forces in the area. While deployment has been assessed on the basis of peaks and troughs in pirate activity, this is no longer adequate as pirate activity is remaining at a high level, whatever the season.

A sobering thought as we consider naval cuts around the world, but rumour has it that the shipping industry has a radical private initiative in hand. Watch this space.

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