Crew abductions increasingly trump cargo theft among global piracy incidents

Pirates across the world are increasingly ditching cargo theft in favour of abducting crews for ransom, delegates attending a conference in Singapore were told today.

ReCAAP, the multinational Asian piracy watchdog, organised a piracy seminar as part of the ongoing Singapore Maritime Week.

Christopher Trelawney, the special advisor on maritime security to the IMO secretary-general, made the observation about hostage taking growing over cargo theft during his speech this morning. He said this had been seen not just in Southeast Asia, but also West Africa and was also threatening to return to the Horn of Africa.

Regarding Somalia, which has returned to the headlines this year following a spate of attacks after a five-year hiatus, Trelawney cautioned that Somali piracy had never been eradicated, rather it had been contained.

“Somali attacks are continuing and we stress the need for effective self protection for shipping,” Trelawney said, adding: “If navies withdraw and industry drops its guard piracy will return.”

Intertanko’s marine director Dr Phillip Belcher said that piracy is a “tropical disease”. On Somalia, Belcher said: “Unfortunately we are going to have to spend some more money there.”

Dr Pornchai Danvivathana, chair of the ReCAAP governing council, focused more on Southeast Asian piracy issues in his opening address. The Philippine terrorist organisation Abu Sayyaf, linked to many abductions of late, he branded as an “emerging threat in regional maritime safety”.

Despite a 12% decrease in the number of local piracy incidents in the first few months of the year, Danvivathana cautioned those attending the event that there was still no room for complacency especially as crew abductions continue.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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