Update Volume 2019/5 2018 marks an increase in piracy attacks
A recent report of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) shows that piracy attacks and armed robbery against vessels have increased significantly worldwide in the past year – from 180 (2017) to 201 (2018) reported incidents.
The focus has shifted from the Horn of Africa off the Somalian coast in the Indian ocean, which was previously notoriously known as an area with a high-risk profile, to the waters of the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic ocean, where the piracy attacks have doubled in the past year. Statistics for 2018 show that this area accounts for all six hijackings; for 13 of the 18 ships against which gun fire was opened, for 130 of the 141 seafarers taken as hostages globally, and for 78 of the 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom.
Members should keep in mind that vessels have been boarded by pirates even outside territorial waters, and some of those cases have ended in some of the crew being kidnapped and taken ashore. This kind of threat poses an urgent need of cooperation and sharing of intelligence information between the littoral states.
The IMB has summarized the developments in 2018 with respect to the main high-risk areas:
Shipowners need to be alert that armed criminals are sailing further out off shore and are targeting a wider variety of seagoing vessels than before: not only tankers, oil industry support vessels and fishing vessels but also bulk carriers, container vessels and general cargo vessels.
While there have been no reported hijacked vessels in that area in 2018, there is still a continued presence of international and EU navies that patrol the waters around the Horn of Africa. Masters are advised to keep a high level of vigilance when sailing in those waters.
The situation in this area has improved largely due to the patrols by the Indonesian Marine Police, which have reduced the number of reported incidents for a third year in a row. However, there have been reports of six crewmembers who were taken hostage in 2018.
The main cause of concern is off Sabah in Eastern Malaysia, where kidnappings and gunfire against vessels have been reported in 2018.
There have been ten incidents reported in the Philippines in 2018 compared to 22 in 2017. Half of the incidents took place in Batangas anchorage.
The IMB has a 24-hour manned Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) which provides data to the maritime industry and governments. Shipowners and masters are advised to report to the PRC all actual, attempted and suspected piracy attacks and incidents.
For more information, a copy of the full IMB report could be requested from the website of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).