However, IMB warned that these numbers were offset by a worrying increase of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea.
Overall, 177 incidents were reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) in the first six months of 2012, compared to 266 incidents for the corresponding period in 2011.
The report showed that 20 vessels were hijacked worldwide, with a total number of 334 crew members taken hostage. There were a further 80 vessels boarded, 25 vessels fired upon and 52 reported attempted attacks. At least four crew members were killed.
Somali piracy down but still a threat
The decrease in the overall number is primarily due to the decline in the incidents of Somali piracy activity, dropping from 163 in the first six months of 2011 to 69 in 2012. Somali pirates also hijacked fewer vessels, down from 21 to 13. Nonetheless, Somali piracy continues to remain a serious threat.
“Somali pirate attacks cover a vast area, from the Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Gulf of Oman to the Arabian Sea and Somali Basin, threatening all shipping routes in the north west Indian Ocean,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, which has been monitoring world piracy since 1991.
The report, in part, has attributed the noticeable decline in Somali piracy to the pre-emptive and disruptive counter piracy tactics employed by the international navies. This includes the disruption of mother vessels and Pirate Action Groups.
“The naval actions play an essential role in frustrating the pirates. There is no alternative to their continued presence,” said Mr Mukundan.
The effective deployment of Best Management Practices, ship hardening and, in particular, the increased use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP), has also contributed to the falling numbers.
As of 30 June 2012, Somali pirates were still holding 11 vessels and 218 crew, 44 of whom were being held ashore in unknown locations and conditions.
Disproportionate increases in Gulf of Guinea
The decline in Somali piracy, however, has been offset by an increase of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, where 32 incidents, including five hijackings, were reported in 2012, versus 25 in 2011. In Nigeria alone there were 17 reports, compared to six in 2011. Togo reported five incidents including a hijacking, compared to no incidents during the same time last year.
The IMB report emphasized that high levels of violence were also being used against crew members in the Gulf of Guinea. Guns were reported in at least 20 of the 32 incidents. At least one crew member was killed and another later died as a result of an attack.
In Nigeria, three vessels and 61 crew members were taken hostage. Seven vessels were boarded, six fired upon and one attempted attack was reported. The report further showed that attacks by armed pirates in skiffs were occurring at greater distances from the coast, suggesting the possible use of fishing or other vessels to reach targets. On 30 June 2012 alone, three vessels were fired upon, including a tanker and a container vessel within a five-minute period, approximately 135 nautical miles from Port Harcourt.
The increase in pirate activity off Togo has also been attributed to Nigerian pirates. The five reported incidents all occurred in April, culminating with the hijacking of a Panamax product tanker by the month’s end.
Armed robberies on the rise in Indonesia
Attacks elsewhere in the world have mainly been armed robberies. Indonesia accounts for almost 20% of the global numbers, with 32 reported incidents compared to 21 over the same period in 2011. Twenty-eight of the vessels targeted were boarded, including 23 anchored vessels, two berthed and three that were underway. Guns have been reported on one occasion. IMB further noted that many other attacks may also have gone unreported.
About the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC)
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.
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
Latest attacks may also be viewed on the IMB Live Piracy Map at: http://www.icc-ccs.org/livepiracymap