Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Piracy Still Threatens Freight Vessels Despite Lowest Rate of Attacks Since 1996

New Report Shows Naval Initiative Having Effect but Private Security Guards Still Held
Shipping News Feature
WORLDWIDE – Pirate attacks on shipping continues to persist off the coasts of West Africa and South East Asia, despite a 20-year low in piracy on the world's seas, according to new figures from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB). The IMB's latest global piracy report shows that pirates launched 141 attacks in 27 countries and took 110 seafarers hostage in the first nine months of 2016 and kidnapped 49 crew for ransom. Nigeria, a growing hotspot for violent piracy and armed robbery, accounts for 26% of all captures, followed by Indonesia, Malaysia, Guinea and Ivory Coast.

The drop is largely attributed to effective action being taken by the Indonesian Marine Police. The IMB reports that though Indonesia still accounts for 34 of the 110 seafarers taken hostage this year, the total number of attacks has plummeted with 33 attacks off Indonesia in the first nine months of 2016, down from 86 for the corresponding period in 2015. Vietnam has also improved, with six incidents so far in compared with 19 during the same period last year.

However, more vessels of all types are being targeted by armed groups along Nigeria's shores, with attacks recorded up to 118 nautical miles from the coast. Though many attacks are believed to go unrecorded, IMB received reports of 31 incidents in the first nine months of 2016, up from 12 in the same period last year.

Somalia, infamous in recent years for its pirate activity, has recorded zero incidents and just one attempted attack in the Gulf of Aden in the first nine months of 2016. However, the IMB warns that the unstable situation in that country means that mariners should continue to be on their guard when transiting waters around the country. Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB commented:

“We are encouraged by the efforts of national and international authorities, and the shipping industry, to keep piracy down. But clearly the threat to crew being taken hostage remains, and it is therefore necessary for shipmasters and response agencies to remain vigilant.”

It’s not all good news however, Associated Press reported last week that the Philippine terrorist group Abu Sayyaf had begun specialising in the capture of foreign registered tugs, a trade which had garnered them an estimated $7.3 million in ransom money in the first six months of this year. The lucrative trade, hijacking small but valuable, defenceless vessels and taking the crew as hostages, suits an organisation which has carried out numerous terrorist attacks over the years, including the Philippines worst ever episode in 2004 when 116 people aboard the Superferry 14 were murdered with a bomb.

Meanwhile the families and friends of the six British crew from the Seaman Guard Ohio await the result of the British Prime Minister’s visit to India. As we have previously detailed, Theresa May has sworn to raise the matter of their continued incarceration at the hands of the authorities there, along with two dozen or so of their colleagues, after their arrest and detention on arms charges, despite their obvious mission as armed security personnel to protect merchant shipping.

Photo: Abu Sayyaf fighters stand guard over a bunch of hostages. The group, linked to both Al Qaeda and ISIL, later decapitated two of their Canadian prisoners.