Pirates are apprehended in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia © Press Association Images
Pirates are apprehended in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia © Press Association Images

Piracy sinks to 20-year low

10 November 2016

Maritime piracy has dropped to its lowest level since 1996, though the coasts of West Africa and Southeast Asia remain the world’s most dangerous.

A report from the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) found that pirates armed with guns or knives took 110 seafarers hostage in the first nine months of 2016. Nine crew members were kidnapped for ransom.

More than a quarter of all incidents occurred in Nigeria, which the IMB said was a growing hotspot for violent piracy and armed robbery. In terms of the number of incidents Indonesia came next, followed by Malaysia, Guinea and Ivory Coast.

The report said there have been 42 attacks worldwide this quarter and a total of 141 incidents so far this year.

This was down 25% on the same period in 2015. Of those 141 incidents, 111 vessels were boarded, five were hijacked, 10 were fired at and a further 15 attacks were thwarted.

“We are encouraged by the efforts of national and international authorities and the shipping industry to keep piracy down. But clearly the threat to crew being taken hostage remains, and it is therefore necessary for shipmasters and response agencies to remain vigilant,” said Pottengal Mukundan, director of IMB.

A major factor behind falling numbers of piracy incidents is a huge drop in incidents off the coast of Indonesia, where the number of attacks has plummeted to 33 so far this year. This compares to 86 for the same period in 2015.

The IMB said patrols by the Indonesian marine police in high-risk areas appear to be working.

Similar improvements were also reported in Vietnam, which has suffered six incidents so far in 2016, compared to 19 last year.

In Nigeria, however, more vessels are being targeted by armed groups along the country’s rivers, anchorages and ports, as well as up to 118 miles off the coast. Some 31 incidents have been reported so far this year, up from 12 last year, and the IMB believes many other attacks go unrecorded.

In the latest incident pirates armed with AK-47 rifles attacked boarded a cargo ship travelling between Nigeria and Cameroon, robbing the ship and damaging accommodation.

The ship’s crew sounded the alert and retreated into a strongroom while the Nigerian Navy intercepted and boarded the ship.

In other Nigerian attacks this year, 13 people have been taken hostage and 29 kidnapped. In one boarding incident in July, five of the crew were captured and the chief officer shot in the head. 

Not a single incident has been recorded in Somalia this quarter and just one attack was reported in the Gulf of Aden for all of 2016.

However, the IMB urged shipmasters to remain vigilant in the area.

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