While reports of pirate attacks reached record levels in the third quarter of 2011 better anti-piracy strategies have enables more ships to deter pirates off the coast of Somalia says the latest report from the International Maritime Bureau, part of the International Chamber of Commerce.
“Figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea in the past nine months are higher than we’ve ever recorded in the same period of any past year,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, whose Piracy Reporting has monitored piracy worldwide since 1991.Demanding millions of dollars in ransom for captured ships and their crews, Somali pirates are intensifying operations not just off their own coastline, but further afield in the Red Sea – particularly during the monsoon season in the wider Indian Ocean. With unprecedented boldness, this August pirates also boarded and hijacked a chemical tanker at anchor in an Omani port, under the protection of coast state security.
But although Somali pirates are initiating more attacks – 199 this year, up from 126 for the first nine months of 2010 – they are managing to hijack fewer vessels. Only 24 vessels were hijacked this year compared with 35 for the same period in 2010. Hijackings were successful in just 12% of all attempts this year, down from 28% in 2011.
IMB credits this reduction in hijackings to policing and interventions by international naval forces, correct application of the industry’s latest Best Management Practice – including the careful consideration of the crews’ retreat to a ‘citadel’ – and other onboard security measures.
“Somali pirates are finding it harder to hijack ships and get the ransom they ask for. The navies deserve to be complimented on their excellent work: they are a vital force in deterring and disrupting pirate activity,” said Captain Mukundan. “The number of anti-piracy naval units must be maintained or increased.”
So far this year, pirates have taken 625 people hostage worldwide. They have killed eight people and injured 41. Pirates are often heavily armed, using automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades.
The West African coast off Benin is seeing a surge in violent piracy, with 19 attacks leading to eight tanker hijackings this year, up from zero incidents in 2010. A pattern has emerged where armed pirates board and hijack the ship – sometimes injuring crew – then force the Masters to sail to an unknown location where they steal the ship’s properties and cargo, and let the vessel free.
In response, Benin has begun joint naval patrols with neighbouring Nigeria, another piracy hot spot.
Captain Mukundan said: “Cooperation between the Nigeria and Benin navies to curb piracy is a positive step. However the real deterrent will be the capture and punishment of these criminals under law.”
Piracy and armed robberies in Asian waters, including the Indian subcontinent, are down from 106 in the first three quarters of 2010 to 87 in the same period this year.
IMB offers the latest piracy reports free of charge. To request a PDF version of the report by email, please visit: http://www.icc-ccs.org/requestreport