Friday, July 15, 2011

Pirate Attacks on Freight Shipping and Tankers Become More Aggressive

Thwarting Attacks Leads to Heavier Firepower
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – The latest report from the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC) reports that not only have attacks by pirates on shipping increased in the first six months of this year in comparison to the same period 2010 – 266 to 196 - but that pirates are using much more aggressive methods and heavier weaponry.

“In the last six months, Somali pirates attacked more vessels than ever before and they’re taking higher risks,” said IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan.

“This June, for the first time, pirates fired on ships in rough seas in the Indian Ocean during the monsoon season. In the past, they would have stayed away in such difficult conditions. Masters should remain vigilant.”

More than 60% of the attacks were by Somali pirates, a majority of which were in the Arabian Sea to the east and north-east of the Gulf of Aden, an area used by oil tankers sailing from the Gulf, as well as a number of attacks in the Southern Red Sea, which has seen fourteen attacks since the 20th of May.

There has also been an upsurge in the use of heavier weaponry being used in attacks, with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) more commonly used, with guns used in 160 attacks and knives in 35. According to the IMB this seems to mark a gradual escalation bought about by greater success at countering pirate attacks due to measures to improve ship security and the actions of international naval forces disrupting pirate groups off the east coast of Africa.

In the first six months of 2011 Somali pirates launched 163 attacks - up from 100 in the first six months of 2010 – but only managed to hijack 21 vessels compared with 27 in the same period last year.

In addition to raised violence off the East African coast, the IMB warn of a surge in particularly violent and highly organized attacks off of West Africa this year, with 12 attacks on tankers off Benin since March, an area where no incidents were reported in 2010.

Five vessels were hijacked and forced to sail to unknown locations, where pirates ransacked and stole the vessel’s equipment, and part of their product oil cargoes. Six more tankers were boarded, mainly in violent armed robbery style attacks, and one attempted attack was reported.

In neighbouring Nigeria, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre was informed of three boardings, two vessels being fired upon, and one attempted attack. The crew were beaten and threatened. Ship’s equipment and crew’s personal effects were stolen. But the IMB states that in reality, the seas around Nigeria are more dangerous than the official reports suggest. The organization is aware of at least 11 other incidents that were not reported to the Piracy Reporting Centre by ships’ masters or owners.

In Asian waters some 50 incidents were recorded for Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore Straits and the South China Seas in the first two quarters of 2011. Three tugs were hijacked by armed pirates and 41 vessels were boarded.

Worldwide, 495 seafarers were taken hostage. Pirates killed seven people and injured 39. Ninety-nine vessels were boarded, 76 fired upon and 62 thwarted attacks were reported.