Maritime piracy on the Bay of Bengal: A case study of maritime crime, targeted intervention, and the diffusion of guardianship
The foundation for this case study is a U.S. Government (USG) policy initiative and intervention which provided 25 high performance patrol vessels, maritime domain awareness technology, and requisite training to the Bangladesh Coast Guard (BCG) in order to support their counter-piracy efforts, particularly in the Chittagong Anchorage and Port. Prior to the inception of this policy intervention, Chittagong was an acknowledged piracy hot spot, with the International Maritime Bureau calling Bangladesh’s main commercial port “the world’s most dangerous” because of its high levels of piracy and maritime criminal activity. However, after the USG began to provide materiel, technology, and training support to the BCG in mid-2010, the median number of reported pirate attacks against international merchant vessels in the Chittagong Anchorage and Port fell by 46.3% on an average annual basis. USG support also enabled the BCG to increase criminal apprehensions by 110.6% and the value of illicit goods seized by almost 14 times on an average annual basis. Conducting pre- and post-intervention comparisons of mean t-tests on these variables showed that the policy intervention impact was both statistically and substantively significant. With additional patrol boats and technology, the BCG was able to patrol the Chittagong Anchorage and Port area with greater intensity, reducing piracy by providing increasingly capable guardianship over suitable targets and effectively deterring motivated offenders (See Routine Activities Theory). Similar to previous urban and land-based studies of hot spot police interventions, the BCG was able to make a substantive impact on piracy in the Chittagong Anchorage through the effective integration of USG provided patrol vessels and technology into an intensive program of patrol and visible deterrence. Data collected through interviews with fishermen and participant observation indicated that the increasingly capable guardianship provided by the BCG for international merchant vessels in the Anchorage likely diffused to fishing boats within the same area. A majority of fishermen respondents (52%, n=42), indicated that the BCG either directly or generally improved the security situation in the Chittagong Anchorage, with a plurality of fishermen (40%, n=40) acknowledging that their security was either “significantly improving” or “somewhat improving”. However, away from the Anchorage and the capable guardianship provided by the BCG, fishermen and their boats were subject to repeated brutal victimization by Bangladeshi pirates. Of the 41 fishermen who completed interviews, 28 (68%) were victimized by pirates with an additional five fishermen reporting that their boats had been chased by pirates while fishing. Fishermen who reported that they had suffered through a pirate attack were victimized, on average, 2.4 times (SD 1.31).