Cruising sailors who stare longingly at the horizon and hope to complete a circumnavigation one day constantly ask about piracy in Somali waters. But while it is still far too early to advise that notorious area is safe any time soon, guess where the highest number of reported piracy incidents are today? Nigeria? Venezuela? No, it's Indonesia.
New hotspots are taking over from the old
The good news is that the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has revealed that piracy on the world’s seas is at its lowest first-quarter level since 2007, but warns that the threat is still present. Now remember, that these attacks relate to ALL shipping and most are on commercial ships. But where it's dangerous for a commercial ship, it's even more dangerous for a yacht, with its low free-board and little protection.
The latest IMB Piracy Report, published this week, shows 49 piracy incidents in the first quarter of 2014 – the lowest first quarter figure since 2007, when 41 incidents were recorded.
In the first three months, two vessels were hijacked, 37 vessels boarded, five vessels fired upon and five attempted attacks were reported. Forty-six crewmembers were taken hostage and two kidnapped from their vessel.
Off the most notorious coastline of them all, Somalia, five incidents were reported – the same number as the first quarter of 2013. In 2014, three attempted attacks were recorded and two vessels fired upon. IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan stated: 'Although the number of attacks continues to remain low, the threat of Somali piracy is still clearly evident.'
The report cites the example of an incident in January 2014 when a Panamax sized product tanker was fired upon approximately 115 NM south of Salalah, Oman from a skiff launched from a mother vessel. The attack was repelled and the international navies subsequently intercepted the mother ship – an Indian dhow which itself had been hijacked a few days previously. Eleven Indian crewmembers were freed and five suspected pirates apprehended. This incident demonstrates the essential role of the international navies in containing the threat of Somali piracy and why their presence must be maintained despite the drop in attacks.
Mr Mukundan said: ''There can be no room for complacency, as it will take only one successful Somali hijacking for the business model to return. Masters are therefore advised to maintain vigilance and adhere to the industry’s latest Best Management Practices recommendations.'
Off West Africa, 12 reports were recorded, including the hijacking of two vessels with 39 crew taken hostage and two crew kidnapped from their vessel. Nigeria accounts for six incidents including the hijacking of a supply vessel, which was used unsuccessfully to hunt for other potential vessels to hijack.
Mr Mukundan said: 'As in previous years there were a significant number of attacks which went unreported in the first quarter of 2014. These vessels may be used by pirates to conduct attacks on other vessels.'
Angola saw its first reported hijacking in the first quarter of 2014 demonstrating the increased range and capability of Nigerian piracy if left unchecked. The incident involved armed pirates boarding and hijacking a loaded tanker from Luanda anchorage, Angola. The pirates stole a large quantity of the tanker’s gas oil cargo in three separate ship-to-ship transfer operations. The vessel was under the control of suspected Nigerian pirates for over a week before the owner regained contact, off Nigeria, approximately 1,200 NM from the initial boarding. One crewmember was injured during the incident.
Elsewhere, Indonesia ranks as the country with the highest number of attacks with 18 reports compared with 25 in the first quarter of 2013. Vessels were boarded in all the incidents. While these are predominantly low level thefts from vessels, seven crewmembers were taken hostage in five incidents, and in four incidents it was reported that the robbers were armed with guns. The report commends the actions of the Indonesian Marine Police which launched regular patrols of the higher risk anchorages in an effort to bring down the number of incidents.
About the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre
The IMB PRC remains the world’s only manned centre to receive and disseminate reports of piracy and
armed robbery 24 hours a day across the globe. As part of ICC it is an independent body set up to monitor
these attacks free of political interference. IMB strongly urges all shipmasters and owners to report all
actual, attempted and suspicious piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB PRC. This is an essential
first step in the response chain. The statistics and reports of the IMB PRC act as a catalyst to encourage
firm response by government and law enforcement.
About The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
ICC is the largest, most representative business organization in the world. Its global network comprises
over 6 million companies, chambers of commerce and business associations in more than 130 countries,
with interests spanning every sector of private enterprise.
A world network of national committees keeps the ICC International Secretariat in Paris informed about
national and regional business priorities. More than 2,000 experts drawn from ICC’s member companies
feed their knowledge and experience into crafting the ICC stance on specific business issues.
The United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G20 and many other intergovernmental bodies,
both international and regional, are kept in touch with the views of international business through ICC.
For more information please visit: www.iccwbo.org