In 2012 alone, piracy in Somalia cost shipping companies $6 billion.  Teresa Stevens and her husband have come up with a product that aims to make it a lot more difficult for pirates to board ships.  The product is called the Guardian Anti-Piracy Barrier.  It is a simply-designed plastic barrier which fits over the rails of a ship and makes it nearly impossible for pirates to board ships using ladders or grappling hooks.  This invention has the potential to lead to huge cost savings for global shipping companies and have a positive impact on neighboring African countries’ economies. 

The obvious impact of this product is the reduction of ransom costs for shipping companies.  A ransom payment to release a major tanker, its cargo, and crew today averages $3 to 5 million.  Widespread piracy has also led to higher insurance premiums, security fees for guards on board the shipping vessels, and increased fuel costs for companies who have had to change trading routes.   

Economically, piracy is disastrous for surrounding East African coastal countries – especially in the tourism and fishing industries.  Since 2006, the year the World Bank report marks as the start of piracy, exports of fish from piracy-affected countries have declined by 23.8%.  Similarly, tourism in these nations has risen 25% more slowly than in sub-Saharan African countries.  This is because high-income tourists from neighboring regions have chosen to vacation in parts of Africa other than the piracy-laden horn of Africa region.  The World Bank lists Comoros, Djibouti, Kenya, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia, and Tanzania as the African countries affected by piracy. 

It will be interesting to see if this simple, low-tech product has the power to revolutionize the shipping industry in a region that remains one of the world’s most important commercial maritime transit corridors.  Click here to view a video about the product and its potential impact on the maritime shipping industry.

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