Piracy at lowest level since 1995, but West Africa kidnappings still rampant

Piracy and armed robbery worldwide has fallen to its lowest level since 1995, according to new figures from the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Some 98 piracy incidents were reported in the first half of 2016, compared with 134 during the same period in 2015, the IMB figures show. When global piracy was at its height in 2010, IMB recorded 445 attacks a year.

“This drop in world piracy is encouraging news. Two main factors are recent improvements around Indonesia, and the continued deterrence of Somali pirates off East Africa,” Captain Pottengal Mukundan, director of IMB, said in a release.

In spite of this, criminal activity West Africa is still a problem and kidnappings there are on the rise. Some 44 crew were captured for ransom in the region between January and June this year, a 10-person increase on the first half of 2015. Of these hostages, 24 were captured in Nigeria.

“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,” said Captain Mukundan.

Globally, IMB recorded 72 vessels boarded, five hijackings and 12 attempted attacks. Some 64 crew were taken hostage onboard vessels, a market decrease from 250 in the same period last year.

Nigerian attacks accounted for eight of the nine vessels fired upon worldwide, and IMB says many further assaults go unreported by shipowners.

The Gulf of Guinea accounted for seven of the world’s 10 kidnapping incidents. Elsewhere, two kidnap incidents occurred off Sabah in Indonesia. In early June, a tug and barge were hijacked off Balingian, Sarawak in Malaysia and the palm oil cargo was stolen.

Mukundan said ships need to “stay vigilant, maintain security and report all attacks”, particularly off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea, where piracy still remains a threat.

Holly Birkett

Holly is Splash's Online Editor and correspondent for the UK and Mediterranean. She has been a maritime journalist since 2010, and has written for and edited several trade publications. She is currently studying for membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. In 2013, Holly won the Seahorse Club's Social Media Journalist of the Year award. She is currently based in London.
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