IMB: Worldwide Piracy Figures Drop, but Dangers Still Lurk

Naval and armed guard protection is working, but the seas off East and West Africa remain dangerous, warns IMB.

Piracy on the world’s seas has reached a five-year low, with 297 ships attacked in 2012, compared with 439 in 2011, the latest International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) report revealed on January 16.

Worldwide figures were brought down by a huge reduction in Somali piracy, although East and West Africa remain the worst-hit areas, with 150 attacks in 2012.

Globally, 174 ships were boarded by pirates last year, while 28 were hijacked and 28 fired upon. The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre also recorded 67 attempted attacks.

The number of people taken hostage onboard fell to 585 last year, from 802 in 2011, while a further 26 were kidnapped for ransom in Nigeria. Six crewmembers were killed and 32 injured or assaulted.

 “The IMB’s piracy figures show a welcome reduction in hijackings and attacks to ships. But crews must remain vigilant, particularly in the highly dangerous waters off East and West Africa,” said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the IMB, which has monitored piracy worldwide since 1991.

In Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, just 75 ships reported attacks in 2012, compared with 237 in 2011, accounting for 25% of incidents worldwide. The number of Somali hijackings was halved, from 28 in 2011 to 14 last year.

The IMB said naval forces were deterring piracy off Africa’s east coast, by “pre-emptive strikes and robust action against motherships”. So too are private armed security teams and crews’ application of “Best Management Practices”.

But the threat and capability of heavily armed Somali pirates remains strong, said Mukundan.

“The continued presence of the navies is vital to ensuring that Somali piracy remains low,” he said. “This progress could easily be reversed if naval vessels were withdrawn from the area.”

Pirate motherships and skiffs were reported in the Gulf of Oman, southern Red Sea and the Somali basin, with a number of attacks close to the Straits of Hormuz and the energy routes out of the Arabian Gulf. As of 31 December 2012, Somali pirates still held 104 hostages on eight ships and 23 more were detained on land, pending negotiations for their release.

As for West Africa, piracy is rising in the Gulf of Guinea, with 58 incidents recorded in 2012, including 10 hijackings and 207 crew members taken hostage.

Pirates in this area are particularly violent, with guns reported in at least 37 of the attacks. Benin is an exception, showing a sharp fall from 20 incidents (including eight hijackings) in 2011 to two (including one hijacking) in 2012.

Nigeria accounted for 27 incidents in 2012, with four vessels hijacked, 13 vessels boarded, eight fired upon and two attempted attacks. Only 10 incidents were reported in 2011, including two hijackings. Togo has also seen an increase from five reports in 2011 to 15 in 2012, including four hijackings.

Off the Ivory Coast, five incidents were reported in 2012, up from one in 2011. In the last quarter of 2012, a panamax product tanker was hijacked by suspected Nigerian pirates off Abidjan, the first such recorded vessel hijacking off the Ivory Coast.

This shows the increased range of Nigerian pirates, said the IMB.

Naval Today Staff, January 18, 2013