Monday, January 21, 2019

Bulk Carriers, Container Ships and General Cargo Vessels All Pirate Targets in 2018

Latest Report Shows Ambush and Hijack Hotspots
Shipping News Feature
WORLDWIDE – Our story last week told how piracy incidents in Asia reduced last year but figures released by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) which produces quarterly and annual reports on the state of play clearly indicates that globally pirate and hijack offences against ships actually increased in 2018.

The picture in Asia, where attacks by pirates were down to their lowest recorded level according to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), IMB figures show a marked rise in attacks against ships and crews around West Africa. Worldwide, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded 201 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery in 2018, up from 180 in 2017.

The Gulf of Guinea, a hotspot we have often feaured, remains increasingly dangerous for seafarers. Reports of attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2018, accounting for all six hijackings worldwide, 13 of the 18 ships fired upon, 130 of the 141 hostages taken globally, and 78 of 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom. The region saw a significant new spike in violence in the last quarter of 2018. Vessels have been boarded by pirates well outside territorial waters, with crew kidnapped and taken into Nigeria where they are held for ransom. The IMB commented:

“There is an urgent need for increased cooperation and sharing of intelligence between the Gulf of Guinea’s littoral states so that effective action can be taken against pirates, both at sea and on-shore where their operations originate and end. There has been some improvement in the estimated number of unreported attacks in 2018 but at around 48% there is still a long way to go.”

In the last three months of 2018, 41 kidnappings were recorded in waters off Nigeria alone. After the attack on the Glarus 45 miles off Bonny Island on 22 September which saw 12 crewmen abducted, on 27 October, 11 crew were kidnapped from a container vessel 70 nautical miles off the same island. Two days later, Nigerian pirates in a speedboat hijacked a tanker underway 100 nautical miles off Point Noire, Congo. Eight of the 18 crew were kidnapped. These are just three recent examples of how armed criminals are reaching further out to sea and targeting a wider variety of ships: bulk carriers, container vessels and general cargo vessels in addition to local attacks on tankers, oil industry support vessels and fishing vessels.

Meanwhile on the other side of the continent there was a slight upswing in activity round the Somali coast where, although no ships were hijacked in the region, pirates fired upon a suezmax tanker in the Gulf of Aden, as well as a product tanker and a capesize bulk carrier more than three hundred miles from the Somali coastline. IMB urges masters to continue to maintain high levels of vigilance when transiting these waters and to follow the latest BMP recommendations. This also highlights the requirement for the continued presence of the European Union and international navies around the Horn of Africa.

Our Asian story covered most of the main points but to reiterate ten incidents were reported from the Philippine islands, down from 22 in 2017. Batangas anchorage accounting for five of these. In one attack, suspected militants fired upon a general cargo ship. The prompt action of the crew and the Philippine Coast Guard ensured the vessel’s safety, although a crewmember was injured by gunfire. The alerts broadcast by the PRC on behalf of the Philippine authorities provide valuable information to Masters and Chief Security Officers (CSO), helping deter militant attacks.

More shooting off Sabah, eastern Malaysia with four attackers in a speedboat firing on a tug, hitting the master in the leg and five crew from two fishing boats reported as kidnapped. Indonesia saw a reduction in incidents with the majority of the 36 Indonesian reports being low level opportunistic thefts. Six crew however were taken hostage and threatened, which the IMB says means the need to be vigilant remains.

The IMB, which broadcasts free of charge to shipping via Inmarsat Safety Net Services and email alerts to CSOs after analysing all reports, and liaising with response agencies, continues to urge shipmasters and owners and other maritime interests to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB PRC. This first step in the response chain is vital to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle this crime. As an independent, non-commercial, and apolitical organization, IMB provides transparent statistics, which acts as a catalyst to achieve this goal.

To obtain the full version of the 2018 IMB Piracy Report you can download it from here.

Photo: A would be pirate aims his AK 47 at the stern of a Maersk vessel as the crew use hoses to try and repel them. Courtesy Guardian Nigeria.