A Somali pirate with a captured boat. © Press Association Images
A Somali pirate with a captured boat. © Press Association Images

Piracy hotspots 'persist' in 2015

18 February 2016

Piracy and armed robbery on the world’s seas continues despite some reduction in activity in 2015, according to a report.

According to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) annual piracy report, piracy last year was close to levels in 2014 even though the number of ships hijacked and crew captured fell.

The report found that there were a total of 246 recorded incidents last year, one more than in 2014. The number of vessels boarded rose 11% to 203. One ship was fired at and 27 attacks were thwarted.

Armed pirates killed one seafarer and injured at least 14. Kidnappings, where crew are held for ransom, doubled from nine in 2014 to 19 last year, all the result of five attacks off the coast of Nigeria.

Fifteen vessels were hijacked in 2015, down from 21 in the previous year, while 271 hostages were held on ships, compared with 442 in 2014. No hijackings were reported in the last quarter of 2015.

IMB, which has monitored world piracy since 1991, said one key factor in this global reduction was a drop in attacks against small fuel tankers around coasts in South East Asia.

The IMB praised actions taken by the Indonesian and Malaysian authorities to arrest and prosecute two tanker hijack gangs, but urged shipmasters to maintain strict anti-piracy and robbery watches.

South East Asia still accounts for most of the world’s incidents. Almost 55% of the region’s incidents involved attacks on moving vessels, compared to 37% in 2014, which IMB said was a cause for concern.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is working closely with the Indonesian Marine Police and other Indonesian authorities to monitor high risk areas. Reports have reduced in the majority of the 11 designated anchorages with only Belawan and Nipah recording increases in attempted thefts, reporting 15 and 26 incidents respectively in 2015.

According to the report, incidents in Vietnam surged from seven in 2014 to 27 last year, mainly driven by low level theft from anchored vessels, with 15 reports from around the port of Vung Tau alone.

In China four incidents were recorded in December 2015, the first in a long time. These included three thefts of bunker diesel oil from large bulk carriers off Tianjin, and one failed attempt of a similar theft.

Low level incidents in Bangladesh dropped to 11 last year, from 21 in 2014.

The report said Nigeria was a hotspot for violent piracy and armed robbery. Reports of 14 incidents, including the boarding of nine vessels, were received, although many attacks are believed to go unrecorded, IMB said.

In one incident 10 armed pirates hijacked a tanker, took nine crew members hostage and transferred the fuel oil cargo into another vessel. They were later arrested by the Ghanaian Navy.

There were no Somali-based attacks in 2015 but the IMB warned vessels crossing the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean to stay particularly vigilant.

“Somalia remains a fragile state, and the potential for an attack remains high,” said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan. “It will only take one successful hijacking to undo all that has been done, and rekindle this criminal activity.”

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