Piracy attacks rise to alarming new levels, ICC report reveals

  • 1 February 2001

Pirate attacks rose last year by 57% compared with 1999 figures and were nearly four and half times higher when compared with 1991 according to a report by the ICC's International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

In its annual Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships report for 2000, the IMB – a division of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) – reports a total of 469 attacks on ships either at sea, at anchor or in port.

The violence used in the attacks also rose to new levels, with 72 seafarers killed and 99 injured in 2000, up from 3 killed and 24 injured the previous year. The number of hostages taken halved to 202 seafarers. Ships were boarded in 307 instances and a total of eight ships were hijacked.

IMB believes that a large number of attacks remain unreported and reports of more incidents relating to 2000 are expected in the coming months.

The figures, compiled by the IMB for January to December 2000, show an alarming mrise in piracy and armed robbery in Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Malacca Straits, India, Ecuador and the Red Sea.

Indonesia recorded the highest number of attacks, accounting for almost one quarter of the world total with 119 incidents. 86 ships were boarded, two ships were hijacked and attempted attacks were made on another 31 ships. It was also the location where the greatest violence was experienced, with many of the pirates armed with knives. The IMB says there are no signs that the number of attacks will drop unless Indonesia takes serious steps to address the problem.

Amongst other world hotspots, the Malacca Straits witnessed a dramatic rise in attacks, up to 75 from 2 in 1999, despite the efforts of the Royal Malaysian Police to step up patrols in the area to tackle the problem. Its special task force captured two groups of pirates, but there are still known to be several other groups attacking and robbing ships as they transit this busy waterway, where the threat of an ecological catastrophe cannot be ignored.

Third place in the 2000 table goes to Bangladesh, with 55 attacks, up from 25 attacks in 1999. The Bangladeshi authorities have since taken action of their own, which resulted in a drop in attacks during the latter part of the year. Other substantial rises were recorded in India (35, up from 14 in 1999), Ecuador (13, up from 2 in 1999), and 13 attempted boardings on ships in the southern part of the Red Sea, where previously there had been no pirate activity. One of the few areas to see a downturn in activity was the Singapore Straits (5 incidents, down from 14).

The annual report also draws attention to IMB’s recent initiative to take the fight against piracy onto the Internet with weekly updates of attacks and warnings. The service, which has been well received in the shipping world, is compiled from daily status bulletins broadcast via satellite from the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur. Posting the
information on the Internet means shipowners and land-based authorities are able to access the updates as well as ships at sea. The address for the weekly report is www.icc-ccs.org

The work of the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is funded by 17 organizations, mostly 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 IMB’sAnnual Report on piracy seeks not only to list the facts, but also to analyse developments in piracy and to identify piracy-prone areas so that the crew can take preventive action.