Piracy on the world’s seas reached a five-year low last year, with 297 ships attacked in 2012, compared with 439 in 2011, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) said in its annual global piracy report. Worldwide figures were brought down by international efforts against Somali piracy, the repor found, though East and West Africa remained the worst hit areas, with 150 attacks in 2012. Globally, 174 ships were boarded by pirates last year, while 28 were hijacked and 28 were fired upon. IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre also recorded 67 attempted attacks. The number of people taken hostage onboard fell to 585 from 802 in 2011, while a further 26 were kidnapped for ransom in Nigeria. Six crewmembers were killed and 32 were injured or assaulted.
In Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, just 75 ships reported attacks in 2012 compared with 237 in 2011, accounting for 25% of incidents worldwide. The number of Somali hijackings was halved from 28 in 2011 to 14 last year. IMB says navies are deterring piracy off Africa’s east coast, with “pre-emptive strikes and robust action against mother ships.” The report also hailed the use of “private armed security teams.”
“The continued presence of the navies is vital to ensuring that Somali piracy remains low,” said IMB director Cpt. Pottengal Mukundan. “This progress could easily be reversed if naval vessels were withdrawn from the area.”
Pirate mother ships and skiffs were reported in the Gulf of Oman, southern Red Sea and the Somali basin, with a number of attacks close to the Straits of Hormuz and the energy routes out of the Arabian Gulf. As of Dec. 31, Somali pirates still held 104 hostages on eight ships and 23 more were detained on land, pending negotiations for their release.
In Somalia, and elsewhere, vessels most commonly attacked are container ships, bulk carriers and tankers loaded with oil, chemicals and other products. Fishing vessels and other smaller boats are also at risk.
In West Africa, piracy is rising in the Gulf of Guinea, with 58 incidents recorded in 2012, including 10 hijackings and 207 crew members taken hostage. Nigeria accounted for 27 incidents in 2012, with four vessels hijacked, 13 vessels boarded, eight fired upon and two attempted attacks. Only 10 incidents were reported in 2011, including two hijackings. Togo has also seen an increase from five reports in 2011 to 15 in 2012, including four hijackings.
Off Ivory Coast, five incidents were reported in 2012, up from one in 2011. In the last quarter of 2012, a Panamax product tanker was hijacked by suspected Nigerian pirates off Abidjan, the first recorded vessel hijacking off the Ivory Coast. “This shows the increased range of Nigerian pirates,” the report stated. (ICC Commercial Crime Services, Jan. 16)