Attacks on ships numbered 263 for 2007, versus the 239 recorded in 2006, based on statistics compiled by the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur. At the same time, pirates and robbers boarding vessels were better armed and more brazen in assaulting and injuring crew members, with a 35% increase reported in the number of incidents involving guns, with 64 crew injured or assaulted, compared with 17 in 2006.
“This significant increase is directly attributable to the increase in incidents in Nigeria and Somalia,” said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, IMB Director, adding that pirates in these two countries attacked vessels further out at sea and were better armed and organized, amid a lack of proper law enforcement.
In Nigeria, attacks were concentrated in Lagos, where 25 attacks took place, and in the Niger Delta region. Many attacks were staged by heavily armed groups with political grievances. A total of 42 incidents were reported last year in Nigeria, a large increase from 12 in 2006.
A total of 31 piracy incidents were reported in Somalia, a jump from 10 reported the year before. The most kidnappings anywhere in the world were also recorded on ships in Somali waters in 2007, where pirates held 154 crew hostage in 11 hijackings. The recent intervention by the international community and coalition forces may prove to be the only way to stop the pirates, which have until now shown complete disregard for the law.
While piracy is on the rise in these two countries, it is on the wane in several states in southeast Asia, as national authorities have cooperated to tackle the problem. In Indonesia, where authorities have been extremely vigilant, many of the attacks currently involve lower-level crimes, including theft. Attacks have fallen to 43 reported incidents last year, a steady, year-on-year decline from 121 in 2003. Similarly, attacks in the Malacca Straits, previously a hotspot, have continued to drop since 2004, as well as in Malaysia and the Singapore Straits.
Perhaps the greatest improvement last year in piracy was reported in Bangladesh, where local authorities succeeded in reducing the number of incidents to 15, well below 47 recorded the previous year.
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) underlined the need for all vessels to report attacks to the PRC and the flag state, which will lead to a more accurate assessment of the problem, which will in turn help prompt governments into taking effective action. The Centre receives reports of attacks anytime, anywhere in the world, reports which are promptly passed to the nearest law enforcement agency for rapid action. IMB also provides immediate advice to Ships’ Masters under attack and has coordinated medical assistance and support through local authorities.
The International Maritime Bureau is a specialized division of the International Chamber of Commerce. The PRC was established in 1992. IMB furnishes weekly updates of attacks on the Internet at www.icc-ccs.org.