Piracy on the rise and costing billions

26 June 2017

Piracy is returning to the high seas with a significant jump in incidents of kidnap for ransom, in Asia and West Africa, according to a report.

Oceans Beyond Piracy's State of Maritime Piracy 2016 said West Africa saw 18 such incidents in 2016, up from 16 in 2015. But the most dramatic jump occurred in Asia, specifically the Sulu and Celebes seas, which saw 21 cases after not seeing a single such incident in 2015.

Many merchant vessels have been rerouted as a result, to avoid the seas, which border the Philippines, Malaysia and Borneo.

West Africa continues to be a piracy hotspot, with incidents costing $793.7m in 2016, up from $719.6m. The cost of contracted security for shipping in the region is estimated at $345.9m.

Some 1,921 seafarers were subjected to attacks in the region in 2016, up from 1,225 in 2015.

The number of reported attacks in the region increased from 54 to 95, with two thirds of reporting attacks occurring off the coast of Nigeria.

This highlights “that piracy and armed robbery at sea in West Africa is strongly influenced by the domestic security situation in Nigeria”, said the report.

In Asia the report estimates that piracy has cost around $4.5m in stolen goods. It led to the arrest of 23 suspects.

The complexity of shipping patterns in the area made it difficult to aggregate costs of piracy and armed robbery.

However, the creation of response teams and coordinated patrols by the states has strengthened counter piracy operations and contributed to the decrease in piracy incidents such as hijackings for cargo theft.

In Asia an estimated 2,283 seafarers were subjected to attacks, down from 3,674 in 2015, with six killed during piracy incidents.

In former hotspot East Africa piracy cost an estimated $1.7bn, with contracted security costing $726.1m.

Shipping companies are now typically contracting security teams with three rather than four members to save costs.

Countries such as China, Japan and India were now handling the bulk of security patrols.

In 2016 545 seafarers were attacked in East Africa but no hijackings were reported. But the report added: “Several suspicious incidents indicate that the capability and intent of pirate groups remain.

“The opportunity to commit acts of piracy continues to increase as vigilance by the shipping community decreases. This trend has been underlined by recent events and attacks in early 2017.”

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