Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tankers and Freight Vessels Targeted as Piracy and Associated Kidnappings Increase Again

Somalian Pirates Quiet But Other Countries Now Breed Their Own Hijackers
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – After a steady drop in global piracy over the last few years, attacks rose 10% in the first quarter of 2015 against the same period of 2014, according to a report by the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC). A total of 54 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships around the world have been reported to the in the first three months of 2015, a mark-up from the 49 reports it received in Q1 2014. Most attacks are against tankers and other freight carriers as well as fishing vessels. A far more alarming figure the IMB PRC reported is that pirates have taken 140 people hostage in this short period, three times as many as during the same period the previous year and the highest number since 2012 when incidents off the coast of Somalia started to tail off.

Worldwide pirates took 140 hostages in the first three months of 2015, of which 13 seafarers were assaulted, three injured, five kidnapped, and one killed. All five kidnappings occurred in Nigeria in two separate incidents in March. One man was killed on January 30, when a Ghanaian flagged fishing vessel was attacked off its native coast. That country also recorded the highest number of hostage takings in the quarter, reporting 45 kidnaps in just two attacks.

The vast majority of the hostage situations occurred in South East Asia which has seen a steady rise in pirate related incidents over the past few years. According to the IMB's report, a small coastal tanker is hijacked by pirates in the region every two weeks on average. South East Asia accounts for 55% of the world’s 54 piracy and armed robbery incidents since the start of 2015, and the frequency of these hijackings is becoming an increasingly worrying cause for concern.

The IMB has recorded 23 ship hijackings in South East Asia since April 2014, with six taking place in the last three months. Most are carried out by armed gangs targeting small coastal tankers to steal their cargoes of fuel, five tankers and an offshore tug having been hijacked in the first quarter. Malaysian authorities have detained one gang of hijackers now awaiting trial, action that the IMB has commended, but the organisation also calls for a ‘stronger, coordinated regional response’ to clamp down on piracy in South East Asian waters. Such effective action has already been seen off the coast of Somalia which reported zero incidents for the quarter though the IMB readily states that shipmasters should follow the industry's Best Management Practices as the threat of Somali piracy has not been totally eliminated.

The country with the highest number of attacks is Indonesia, accounting for almost 40% of 2015 attacks, with two vessels hijacked and 19 vessels boarded. The IMB reports that the overwhelming majority of incidents are low-level, opportunistic thefts, although the attackers here are usually armed with knives, machetes or guns.

With eight reports in the past three months alone, Vietnam is another country which has seen an increase in armed robbery incidents. More and more thieves are breaking into ships at anchor in and around Hai Phong and Vung Tau.