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29 September 2013 | Will Green
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has issued a warning to shipping about the potential for a rise in piracy off the eastern coast of Africa as the monsoon season subsides.
The IMB, part of the International Chamber of Commerce Commercial Crime Services, said conditions would “become conducive to the operation of small pirate skiffs” and masters of ships should remain vigilant and follow anti-piracy protocols.
The warning comes as figures show a drop in the number of piracy incidents, with 138 taking place worldwide in the first half of the year compared with 177 in the same period of 2012. Covering the same periods there was a reduction in hijackings from 20 to seven, while the number of sailors taken hostage fell from 334 to 127.
The IMB attributes the drop to the actions of naval vessels and on-board security teams, and the presence of a stable government in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB, said: “Naval forces continue to play a key role in the response against piracy in this area from the collection of intelligence to the identification and disarming of suspected pirate vessels before they pose a threat to ships. It is vital they remain until the situation improves ashore so that piracy is no longer a viable option for the criminals.
“Although the attacks off Somalia have fallen we should not forget the desperate plight of the 64 crew currently held in Somalia, 38 of whom have been there for over two years.”
But there has been a rise in piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, with 31 incidents taking place in the first half of 2013, including four hijackings and one killing. Attacks off Nigeria accounted for 22 of the incidents.
“There has been a worrying trend in the kidnapping of crew from vessels well outside the territorial limits of coastal states in the Gulf of Guinea,” said Mukundan.
In June the heads of West and Central African countries signed the Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Ships, and Illicit Maritime Activity in West and Central Africa.