Thursday, April 14, 2016

Piracy Incidents Down but Kidnap and Ransom Cases on the Rise

Security Situation for Vessels off Nigeria Remains Worrying
Shipping News Feature
ASIA – GULF OF GUINEA – WORLDWIDE – Just as a report from maritime intelligence and operations firm, Dryad Maritime, shows some positive news to the start to 2016, with reported incidents of piracy and crime against vessels and mariners at its lowest levels for a decade in South East Asia, reports of two separate pirate attacks on April 11 in the Gulf of Guinea confound the good news and demonstrate the latest in the situation regarding piracy, kidnap, ransom and sabotage activity in the region. Ian Millen, Chief Operating Officer, Dryad Maritime said:

“The first three months of 2016 have visibly demonstrated the dynamic nature of maritime crime and how effective action to combat it can turn the tide in favour of the good guys. There are some welcome causes for optimism in certain regions, notably the Indian Ocean where Somali piracy remains broadly contained, and in Southeast Asia where we have seen a remarkable turnaround in a little over six months to deliver our lowest first quarter figures in a decade. In other areas, such as the Gulf of Guinea, the picture is a less positive one, with kidnap of crew for ransom rampant off the Niger Delta.

“Wider concerns, from the effects of civil war and concerns over maritime terrorism to the impact of humanitarian crises such as maritime migration, continue to focus the minds of all with duty of care responsibilities for ships, crew and passengers, but these are manageable issues with proper planning and support.

“Despite the good progress in some regions, we should avoid complacency at all costs. Criminal enterprises are adaptable and flexible and unencumbered by ethics, morality or international corporate law. No less business savvy than legitimate, law-abiding businesses, they can and will adapt to changing market conditions, finding new, less risky and more profitable ways of making their ill-gotten gains. The drop off in cargo theft and increase in kidnap activity in the Gulf of Guinea, could be one such example of this adaptability.”

In South East Asia there has been over a 50% drop in reported maritime crime compared to the same period in 2015; the lowest figures recorded by Dryad in 10 years. Similarly, the end of Q1 2016 represents the longest period without attacks on vessels underway or at anchor within the Singapore Strait since Q1 2013. Somali piracy continues to be broadly contained, combined international naval forces presence being maintained in the area, with no confirmed attacks on large merchant vessels since January 2014, despite some industry commentators’ views that the pirates continue to ‘probe.’

Dryad’s latest figures show that the Gulf of Guinea continues to blight an otherwise cautiously optimistic analysis. From January to March, the region saw a surge of industrial sabotage ashore, and offshore, the activity of Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) operating with impunity in the face of overstretched Nigerian naval patrols has surged. During the three months, 14 commercial vessels were attacked off Rivers and Bayelsa States, with 8 raids classified as ‘unsuccessful’ due to evasive manoeuvring or the crew’s evasion of capture by retreating to their ship’s citadel. In 6 of these incidents, 23 crew-members were kidnapped for ransom, which is proving a far more effective business plan for PAGs than hijacking product tankers for cargo (instances of which have fallen dramatically in the last 18 months), despite one unsuccessful attempt which was thwarted by Nigerian forces in February.

Historically, attacks against commercial shipping in the Gulf have occurred during the hours of darkness, as the pirates have an advantage given the low levels of visibility. However, the majority of this year’s attacks off the Niger Delta have occurred during daylight hours. For instance, the crew of MT Sampatiki raised an alarm via VHF radio that their vessel was under attack at approximately 0630 UTC, with the gang remaining aboard for four hours. During that time, there appears to have been little response, if any, from Nigerian naval forces.

In the latest two cases the Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre – Gulf of Guinea (MTISC GOG) and the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) have reported two pirate attacks on the same day. At about 01:30 local time (UTC/GMT +1), Turkish product tanker Puli was attacked by eight pirates armed with rifles in a speed boat, off of Port Harcourt while en route from Douala to Abidjan. The pirate stole cash, ship’s properties, crew personal belongings, and kidnapped six or seven crew members before escaping. The vessel is owned by Kaptanogul Shipping.

Later at about 20:56, armed pirates boarded the 4,300 teu container ship, the CMA CGM Turquoise en route from Lagos to Douala. The Master raised the alarm, activated SSAS and all crew members, except two crew, mustered in the citadel. After about 12 hours, the crew emerged from the citadel and the Second Officer and the electrician were reported kidnapped. The vessel is owned by Dioryx Maritime. Photo: A Dryad employee demonstrates the use of razor wire as a deterrent to would be boarders.