July 26, 2016 by Canadian Underwriter
Despite a surge in kidnappings off West Africa, piracy and armed robbery at sea has fallen to its lowest levels since 1995, notes a new report issued Monday by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
There were 98 incidents in the first half of 2016, down from 134 for the same period in 2015, notes an IMB statement. “When piracy was at its highest, in 2010 and 2003, IMB recorded 445 attacks a year,” it reports.
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is the world’s only independent office to receive reports of pirate attacks 24 hours a day from across the globe.
Specifically for the first six months of 2016, IMB recorded 72 vessels boarded, five hijackings and a further 12 attempted attacks. In addition, nine ships were fired upon and 64 crew were taken hostage onboard, down from 250 in the corresponding period of 2015.
Although encouraging – including recent improvements around Indonesia and the deterrence of Somali pirates off East Africa – continued care is essential, suggests IMB director Pottengal Mukundan. “Ships need to stay vigilant, maintain security and report all attacks, as the threat of piracy remains, particularly off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea,” Mukundan emphasizes.
That vigilance is key since challenges remain. Despite global improvements, kidnappings are on the rise in the first half of 2016, with 44 crew members captured for ransom.
“In the Gulf of Guinea, rather than oil tankers being hijacked for their cargo, there is an increasing number of incidents of crew being kidnapped for ransom,” Mukundan notes in the IMB statement.
“The Gulf of Guinea accounted for seven of the world’s 10 kidnapping incidents, with armed gangs boarding vessels 30 to 120 NM from shore,” IMB reports. “Nigerian attacks are often violent, accounting for eight of the nine vessels fired upon worldwide,” the statement adds.
IMB further notes that many additional assaults go unreported by shipowners.
The bureau strongly urges all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the local authorities and the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre.
“This first step in the response chain is vital to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle piracy,” the statement notes.
Pointing out that the reporting centre has been working closely with the Indonesian authorities to improve security at sea and in ports, IMB reports that low-level theft to ships at anchor has been brought down by introducing designated anchorages with improved security.
“This has contributed to a fall in the number of incidents in Indonesia to 24 in the first six months of 2016 compared with 54 in the same period in 2015,” the bureau states.