2009 Worldwide piracy figures surpass 400

  • 14 January 2010

A total of 406 incidents of piracy and armed robbery have been reported in the 2009 annual piracy report issued by the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC).

The last time piracy figures crossed 400 incidents was in 2003. 2009 is also the third successive year that the number of reported incidents have increased with 239, 263 and 293 incidents reported in 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively.

The report states that worldwide in 2009, 153 vessels were boarded, 49 vessels were hijacked, 84 attempted attacks and 120 vessels fired upon – compared to 46 ships fired upon in 2008. A total of 1052 crew were taken hostage. Sixty eight crew were injured in the various incidents and eight crew killed.

The level of violence towards the crew has increased along with the number of crew injuries. The total number of incidents attributed to the Somali pirates stands at 217 with 47 vessels hijacked and 867 crewmembers taken hostage.

Somalia accounts for more than half of the 2009 figures, with the attacks continuing to remain opportunistic in nature.n 2008, 111 vessels were targeted by Somali pirates resulting in 42 hijackings.

Whilst the number of 2009 incidents has almost doubled, the number of successful hijackings is proportionately less. This can be directly attributed to the increased presence and coordination of the international navies along with heightened awareness and robust action by the Masters in transiting these waters.

IMB Director, Captain Pottengal Mukundan stated that, “The international navies play a critical role in the prevention of piracy in Somalia and it is vital that they remain.”

2009 has however seen a significant shift in the area of attacks off Somalia. While the 2008 attacks were predominantly focused in the Gulf of Aden, 2009 has witnessed more vessels also being targeted along the east coast of Somalia.

Since October increased activity has been observed in the Indian Ocean with 33 incidents reported, including 13 hijackings. Thirteen of these last quarter incidents occurred east of the recommended east of 60° east – including four hijacked vessels. Many of these attacks have occurred at distances of approximately 1000 nautical miles off Mogadishu.

Captain Mukundan continued, “Motherships have traditionally posed as fishing vessels or how to avoid detection. Reports of such crafts so far from the coast should be questioned and investigated.”

Twenty eight incidents were reported for Nigeria in 2009. Of these 21 vessels were boarded, three vessels were fired upon, one vessel was hijacked and three Masters reported an attempted attack on their vessel. One crew was reported killed as the robbers tried to escape after looting the vessel. Vessels attacked include, general cargo, bulk carriers, reefers, and all types of tankers. The majority of incidents related to the oil industry and fishing vessels go unreported.

Information from external sources would suggest at least a further 30 unreported attacks occurred in Nigeria in 2009. Captain Mukundan added, “The Nigerian attacks are however much more violent in nature than Somalia, localised but with the capacity to attack vessels and installations further from the coast. The incidence of violent attacks against ships has also spilled over into neighbouring states.”

Indonesia is again applauded for their tireless efforts in curbing piracy and armed robbery in its waters. There continues to be a year on year decline in the number of incidents, with 15 incidents for 2009, the majority opportunistic in nature. Only two incidents were reported in the Malacca Straits – the same as in 2008. This is the second year in a row where incidents in the Singapore Straits have increased. Nine incidents were reported in 2009 as compared to six in 2008. Of these six vessels were boarded and three reported attempted attacks. Thirteen incidents were reported by ships steaming in the South China Seas. This is the highest number of incidents in the previous five years. Of these eleven were boarded, one vessel was hijacked and one reported an attempted attack. In some attacks the bridge crew was physically removed from the bridge for a short period of time – leaving the vessel effectively “Not Under Command.”

Even though there has been significant improvement in the safety and security of the SE Asian and Far East waters there still remains an underlying potential for incidents to increase without any prior warning. The pressure on the pirates and the robbers has to be maintained by the littoral states and the constant physical presence in the waters.

Bangladesh (Chittagong) has shown a slight increase in the number of attacks as compared to 2008. Most of these have been opportunistic. Of the 17 vessels attacked, 14 were boarded and ship stores stolen. Most of the incidents have taken place within the Chittagong anchorage. Thirty seven incidents have been reported from countries in the South American continent as compared to 14 in 2008.

Twelve incidents have occurred in the anchorage of Callao in Peru in 2009 compared to five the previous year. Other countries affected are Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Haiti and Venezuela. Most of these attacks were successful and were carried out while the vessels were berthed in port or while at anchor. This is a similar trend as in 2008.

The IMB strongly urges all Shipmasters and Owners, to report all incidents of actual and attempted piracy and armed robbery to the IMB PRC. This is the first step in the response chain and vital in ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by governments to deal with the problem.

A set of transparent statistics from an independent, mnon-political, international organisation such as the IMB PRC acts as an effective catalyst to achieve this goal. IMB offers quarterly piracy reports free of charge.