Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Pirate Attacks Decline against Freight and Passenger Vessels as Naval Forces Maintain Vigilance

Piracy Incidents Down Again with Armed Guards Aboard Potential Targets in Dangerous Waters
Shipping News Feature
WORLDWIDE – Attacks against freight and passenger vessels remain in decline as the world's Naval forces maintain a vigil in the Indian Ocean and armed personnel accompany likely targets through suspect waters. According to the latest annual report from the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau (ICC IMB), a total of 180 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) in 2017, the lowest number of incidents since 1995, when 188 reports were received.

In 2017, 136 vessels were boarded, while there were 22 attempted attacks, 16 vessels fired upon and six vessels hijacked. In 15 separate incidents, 91 crewmembers were taken hostage and 75 were kidnapped from their vessels in 13 other incidents. Three crewmembers were killed in 2017 and six injured. Despite the decline in global figures compared to 2016, when a total of 191 incidents were reported, with 150 vessels boarded and 151 crewmembers taken hostage, the threat of piracy and such related incidents remains of great concern, with more warning for vessels in high-risk areas to stay vigilant.

The report warned of persistent danger in the Gulf of Guinea, where there were 36 reported incidents with no vessels hijacked in this area, but 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crewmembers in or around Nigerian waters in 2017. Globally 16 vessels reported being fired upon – including seven in the Gulf of Guinea.

Nine incidents were recorded off Somalia in 2017, up from two in 2016. In November, a container ship was attacked by armed pirates approximately 280 nautical miles east of Mogadishu. The pirates, unable to board the vessel due to the ship’s evasive manoeuvring, fired two RPG rockets, both of which missed, before retreating. Six Somali pirates were subsequently detained by European Union Naval Force, transferred to the Seychelles and charged with ‘committing an act of piracy’ where they face up to 30 years’ imprisonment, if convicted. Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the IMB, commented:

“This dramatic incident, alongside our 2017 figures, demonstrates that Somali pirates retain the capability and intent to launch attacks against merchant vessels hundreds of miles from their coastline.”

Indonesia recorded 43 incidents in 2017, down from 49 in 2016. The IMB report notes that Indonesian Marine Police patrols continue to be effective in the country’s 10 designated safe anchorages.

In the Philippines, however, the number of reported incidents has more than doubled, from 10 in 2016 to 22 in 2017. According to the report, the majority of these incidents were low-level attacks on anchored vessels, mainly at the ports of Manila and Batangas. Vessels underway off the Southern Philippines were boarded and crew kidnapped in the first quarter of 2017. However, alerts broadcast by the PRC, on behalf of the Philippine authorities, have since helped to avoid further successful attacks.

Photo: Scenes such as this, showing a team from a EU Naval Force warship holding a group of suspected pirates off the Somali coast in 2012, are thankfully becoming ever more frequent.