THE annual monsoon season that kicks in round about now normally brings welcome respite to operators forced to send their ships through the piracy-prone waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
Even the bad guys need to take a break now and again, and the time of year in which swells make it dangerous to operate skiffs seems as good a time as any for the Somalis to take a summer holiday. But worryingly, there are pointers that the brigands are coming up with ever more clever methods by which they hope to expand the time constraints in which they can operate.
We hear from maritime security specialists that the pirates are increasingly busy in the Bab el Mandeb, which is relatively sheltered, and that the latest tactical turn to be adopted is the so-called swarm attack.
This sees anything up to 10 skiffs take on a single merchant vessel, and has a reasonable expectation of circumventing normal precautions, if only by weight of numbers.
Undoubtedly, all this evidences an increasing degree of sophistication and co-ordination on the part of the criminals, who have consistently shown themselves savvy in devising new means to thwart the best endeavours of the international community to protect shipping as best it can.
Moreover, there are no obvious solutions short of resort to firepower immediately on offer. That can only be bad news for all the standard reasons for which the industry opposes routine use of arms.