While piracy on the high seas continues to fall across most of the globe, International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center is highlight growing threat of violent attacks in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa, where 44 seafarers have been captured so far this year.
Worldwide, just 37 piracy and armed robbery incidents were recorder in the three months of 2016, down from 54 in the same period last year, the IMB said in it’s first quarter report. Three vessels were hijacked and 29 boarded, with 26 crew kidnapped for ransom and a further 28 held hostage.
The Gulf of Guinea dominates world piracy in terms of numbers and severity, with the waters off Nigeria and Ivory Coast accounting for two of the three hijackings recorded globally, and all 28 hostages. From January to March, the region saw 16 crew kidnapped from chemical and product tankers in four separate incidents. While ten attacks were reported off Nigeria alone, all involving guns.
“Reports in the last quarter indicate unacceptable violence against ships and crews in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly around Nigeria. The current increase in kidnappings is a cause for great concern,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, who has monitored world piracy since 1991.
IMB notes that armed pirate groups have attacked vessels and their crews along the coast, rivers, anchorages, ports and surrounding waters, as well as up to 110 nautical miles out to sea, so it is warning crews in this area to remain vigilant at all times. Bulk and vehicle carriers have also been targeted, as well as vessels serving the oil industry.
India: armed robbers
Of India, IMB noted ten incidents in the first quarter of 2016, with the port of Kandla in Western India reporting seven of these – more than for the whole of 2015. These attacks were all predominantly low-level thefts by groups of armed robbers targeting anchored vessels, the IMB said.
Positive signs in South East Asia
In South East Asia, one of the biggest hotspots for piracy over the past two years, no small product tankers have been hijacked so far this year. The good news follows a spate of attacks recorded there between in April 2014 and August 2015.
“Actions taken by the Malaysian and Indonesian authorities against pirate gangs in 2015 appear to have had the necessary deterrent effect,” said Captain Mukundan.
Indonesia recorded four low-level thefts, a noticeable reduction compared to the 21 incidents noted in the first quarter of 2015.
The Philippines was the location of the third hijacking this year, after the two product tankers hijacked off West Africa. Pirates attacked a tug and coal-carrying barge off Omapoy Islands in March. The barge was cast off and ten crewmembers kidnapped from the tug. The tug was recovered by the Philippine Police and the still-laden barge recovered a week later by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).
Somalia Still Fragile
No Somali-based attacks were reported in the first three months of 2016, continuing 2015’s streak with no attacks. However, as of 31 March 2016, suspected Somali pirates continue to hold 29 crew members for ransom, the IMB says. Despite the decline, the IMB Piracy Reporting Center still advises shipmasters to stay vigilant and follow the industry’s Best Management Practices while sailing through these waters especially as the situation onshore in Somalia remains fragile and the threat of Somali piracy has not been eliminated.
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is the world’s only independent office to receive reports of pirate attacks 24-hours-a-day from across the globe.