Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pirate Threat to Container Ships and Bulk Freight Vessels Down to Eight Year Low

Thanks to Concerted Naval Vigilance and Best Management Practices Hijack Levels are Way Down
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – The annual report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) shows incidents of piracy in 2014 at its lowest level in eight years, with a total of 245 incidents recorded worldwide. Whilst the number of attacks have decreased for the fourth consecutive year, there has been a noticeable upward trend in the number of vessels successfully hijacked, with 21 in 2014 compared to 12 in 2013. This increase is attributed entirely to the rise in small coastal tanker hijackings in South East Asian waters in 2014 whilst the menace of Somali pirates against container and bulk freight vessels has reduced considerably thanks to Best Management Practices and a constant vigil by the world’s naval forces.

The IMB’s annual piracy report shows just 245 incidents were recorded worldwide in 2014, a 44% drop since Somali piracy peaked in 2011, with last year 21 vessels actually hijacked, 183 boarded, and 13 fired upon, in addition to 28 attempted attacks. During these attacks, pirates killed four crew members, injured 13 and kidnapped nine from their vessels, having taken a total of 442 crew members hostage, an increase from the 304 reported in 2013. Though the vast majority of the attacks (141 to be precise) took place in South East Asian waters, Somali pirates were still responsible for 11 attacks, all of which were thwarted. However, the IMB warns that threat of Somali piracy has not been eliminated and urges vessels and the crew to remain vigilant.

The hijacking of small product tankers in SE Asia continues to increase with 2014 seeing 15 reported hijackings plus another two incidents in which the pirates did not steal the cargo as the type of cargo carried was ‘wrong’. In one recent incident a crew member was killed and the IMB warns that without a strong deterrent, hijackings with increasing amounts of violence may continue and calls on all Regional Authorities to work together to identify and arrest the criminals and see an end to this crime.

The IMB commends the Indonesian Marine Police’s efforts to stem the increase in attacks in identified port hotspots. Outside port limits, pirates are particularly active in the waters around Pulau Bintan and the South China Sea, where 11 vessels were hijacked in 2014. Actions taken by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, the Indonesian authorities and other maritime forces of regional coastal states have played a key role in responding to these attacks. Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, the Piracy Reporting Centre which has monitored world piracy since 1991, said:

“The global increase in hijackings is due to a rise in attacks against coastal tankers in South East Asia. Gangs of armed thieves have attacked small tankers in the region for their cargoes, many looking specifically for marine diesel and gas oil to steal and then sell. It is important that these gangs are caught and punished under law, before the attacks become more audacious and violent.”

Over in West Africa, 41 incidents were reported though the IMB says many further attacks went unreported. Five vessels were hijacked, including three tankers, one supply and a fishing vessel. Hijackings of product tankers appeared to dimish at the end of 2014, with the last reported case in July 2014.

Focusing on Nigeria, 14 out of a total of 18 attacks involved tankers and vessels associated with the oil industry. Most were product tankers, hijacked to steal and tranship their cargo into smaller tankers. Earlier in the year the waters South and West of the Brass Terminal saw a particularly concerning spate of attacks.

Photo: Like the Black Pearl, pirate fortunes are foundering compared to recent years.