More crew were kidnapped by pirates in 2016 than in any of the previous 10 years, according to a report.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said 62 people were kidnapped for ransom on 15 separate occasions last year, a threefold increase on 2015.
Just over half were captured off West Africa and 28 were kidnapped from tugs, barges, fishing boats and merchant ships around Malaysia and Indonesia.
Globally 150 vessels were boarded in 2016, 12 vessels were fired upon, seven were hijacked and 22 attacks were thwarted. The number of hostages fell to 151.
In total 191 incidents were reported to IMB, down on 246 in 2015.
Pottengal Mukundan, director of IMB, said: “The continued fall in piracy is good news but certain shipping routes remain dangerous, and the escalation of crew kidnapping is a worrying tend in some emerging areas.
“The kidnappings in the Sulu Sea between East Malaysia and the Philippines are a particular concern.”
The IMB said the kidnapping of crew from ocean-going merchant vessels in the Sulu Sea and their transfer to the Southern Philippines was a “notable escalation in attacks” and shippers were advised to use an alternative route.
The report said the Gulf of Guinea remained a kidnap hotspot, with 34 crew taken in nine separate incidents, and nine vessels were fired upon. Some were almost 100 nautical miles from the coastline.
Meanwhile, a product tanker was fired on while it was 300 nautical miles from the shore off Somalia.
The IMB, part of the International Chamber of Commerce, said this “demonstrates that the capacity and intent to attack merchant shipping still exists off Somalia”.
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