Worldwide piracy incidents have fallen to their lowest level in seven years, but don’t go raising any victory flags just yet.
In it’s 2014 Q1 reports, the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has revealed that piracy on the world’s seas was at its lowest first-quarter level since 2007.
The latest IMB Piracy Report, published Thursday, shows that there were just 49 piracy incidents in the first quarter of 2014, the lowest first quarter figure since 2007, when 41 incidents were recorded.
In the first three months, two vessels were hijackedj worldwide, 37 vessels boarded, five vessels fired upon and five attempted attacks were reported, the IMB said. Forty-six crewmembers were taken hostage and two kidnapped from their vessel.
Off Somalia, five incidents were reported, the same number as the first quarter of 2013, including three attempted attacks and two vessels fired upon.
Despite this seemingly good news, however, IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan warns “Although the number of attacks continues to remain low, the threat of Somali piracy is still clearly evident.”
To prove that Somali piracy remains a threat, the report cites an incident in January 2014 when a Panamax product tanker was fired upon approximately 115NM south of Salalah, Oman from a skiff launched from a mother vessel. The attack was repelled and the international navies subsequently intercepted the mother ship – an Indian dhow which itself had been hijacked a few days previously. Eleven Indian crewmembers were freed and five suspected pirates apprehended.
The incident demonstrated the essential role of the international navies in containing the threat of Somali piracy and why their presence must be maintained despite the drop in attacks.
“There can therefore be no room for complacency” adds Mukundan “as it will take only one successful Somali hijacking for the business model to return. Masters are, therefore advised to maintain vigilance and adhere to the latest Best Management Practices recommendations.”
Off West Africa, meanwhile, 12 reports were recorded including the hijacking of two vessels with 39 crew taken hostage and two crew kidnapped from their vessel. Nigeria accounts for six incidents including the hijacking of a supply vessel, which was used unsuccessfully to hunt for other potential vessels to hijack. Mukundan commented “ As in previous years there has been a significant number of attacks which have gone unreported in the first quarter of 2014. These vessels may be used by pirates to conduct attacks on other vessels.”
Angola saw its first reported hijacking in the first quarter of 2014 demonstrating the increased range and capability of Nigerian piracy if left unchecked. The incident involved armed pirates boarding and hijacking the loaded tanker Kerala from the Luanda anchorage in Angola. The pirates stole a large quantity of the tanker’s gas oil cargo in three separate STS operations, and the vessel was under the control of suspected Nigerian pirates for over a week before the owner regained contact, off Nigeria, approximately 1200 NM from the initial boarding. One crewmember was injured during the incident.
Elsewhere, Indonesia ranks as the country with the highest number of attacks with 18 reports compared with 25 in the first quarter of 2013. Vessels were boarded in all the incidents. Whilst these are predominantly low level thefts from vessels seven crewmembers were taken hostage in five incidents, while in four incidents it was reported that the robbers were armed with guns. The report commends the actions of the Indonesian Marine Police which launched regular patrols of the higher risk anchorages in an effort to bring down the number of incidents.