IMB report cites spike in piracy

  • 11 July 2007

As detailed in the recently released Q2 2007 Report on Piracy Against Ships, ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) research indicates that acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the second quarter of 2007 have jumped by 37% when compared to the second quarter of 2006.

Despite a spike in the second quarter, the annual total to date remains approximately on par with last year, with the total number of attacks for the first six months of 2007 equalling 126, as compared with 127 for the corresponding period in 2006.

IMB’s recent report states that so far in 2007 13 vessels were hijacked by heavily armed attackers, 152 crew members were taken hostage, 41 were kidnapped and three were killed. In 66 cases, either guns or knives were used.

Commenting on the second quarter figures, IMB Director, Captain Pottengal Mukundan stated: “Despite a sustained decrease in acts of piracy over the past three years, the statistics for the second quarter of this year suggest that we may be seeing a reversal of this trend. Somalia and Nigeria remain very dangerous, high risk areas with large numbers of violent kidnappings and hostage takings.”

In Nigeria, 19 incidents have been reported, including the boarding of 15 vessels and one hijacking. Forty crew members have been kidnapped and 24 taken hostage in 2007. These attacks appear to be orchestrated by a few local groups, claiming their actions are in pursuit of political goals. Offshore supply vessels and their crew are frequently identified as potential targets for kidnap and ransom, although cargo ships have also been targeted.

Commenting on specific elements of piracy in the region, Captain Mukundan added, “Off the coast of Lagos, oil tankers conducting ship-to-ship operations in anchorages and tankers moored to SBMs have become particularly vulnerable targets.”

In Somalia, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre has recorded 16 incidents to date in 2007. This is a dramatic increase over the ten attacks recorded for all of 2006. The 16 incidents reported include 14 confirmed and two unconfirmed reports. A total of eight vessels were hijacked, with 85 crew members taken hostage.

As a result of the renewed level of attacks near Somalia and a recent incident that occurred 180 NM off the Somali coast, IMB now advises vessels not calling at Somalia, to remain at least 200 NM clear of Somali waters at all times. Last month, there was an attempted attack 315 NM off the Somali coastline.

Commenting on attacks taking place of the coast of Somalia, Captain Mukundan stated: “For the safety of all vessels in the region, it is critical that vessels under attack off Somalia immediately notify the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre. This will allow the IMB to alert other vessels in the area. Piracy reports will also be passed to the coalition naval forces in the region so that they can investigate suspect vessels.”

Commenting on the political changes required to reduce piracy in the region, Captain Mukundan stated: “The IMB welcomes the International Maritime Organization’s efforts to refer this issue to the United Nations Security Council. We hope they will prevail upon the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia to permit naval units from other countries to assist hijacked vessels in Somali waters. It is only when the pirates see that they can no longer make easy money by seizing vessels, that we will see a reduction in attacks.”

While parts of Africa remain problematic, the situation in the previously worrisome Malacca Straits has significantly improved. No incidents were reported in this area in the second quarter of 2007. This improvement is largely attributed to the co-operation between states bordering these waters.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) is the only operation of its kind in the world, offering Ship’s Masters the ability to report attacks of piracy from any location, at any time. The Centre’s role extends beyond compiling reports and issuing warnings, it also provides immediate advice to ships under attack, and can co-ordinate medical assistance and support through local authorities.

The work of PRC is funded by 22 organisations including P&I Clubs, ship owners and insurers. The Centre is now recognized throughout the maritime industry for its valuable contribution in quantifying the problem of world piracy and providing assistance, free of charge, to ships that have been attacked.

The Q2 2007 Report on Piracy Against Ships seeks not only to list the facts, but also to analyse developments in piracy and identify piracy-prone areas so that ships can take preventive action and law enforcement agencies can react accordingly. On a trial basis, IMB is offering the report free of cost.