Unprecedented rise in piratical attacks

  • 24 October 2008

The latest piracy statistics released by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) indicate a dramatic increase in attacks of piracy for the first nine months of 2008.

Somalia, Nigeria, and Indonesia remain international piracy hotspots, ranking first, second and third in acts of piracy up to the end of Q3 2008.

A total of 199 incidents were reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) in the first nine months of 2008. The third quarter of 2008 saw reported incidents spike to 83, a significant increase when compared to the 53 reported in the first quarter and the 63 reported in the second quarter. The reported acts of piracy committed to date in 2008 have included 115 vessels boarded, 31 vessels hijacked, and 23 vessels fired upon. A total of 581 crewmembers were taken hostage, nine kidnapped, nine killed and seven missing – presumed dead.

IMB Director Captain Pottengal Mukundan stated: “The increased frequency of piracy and heightening levels of violence are of significant concern to the shipping industry and all mariners. The types of attacks, the violence associated with the attacks, the number of hostages taken, and the amounts paid in ransoms for the release of the vessels have all increased considerably.”

Much of the increase in piracy can be directly attributed to the increasingly dangerous Gulf of Aden and East coast of Somalia. This region ranks as the number one piracy danger zone with the 63 incidents reported there accounting for almost a third of the overall reported attacks.

In the third quarter of 2008, a total of 26 vessels were hijacked by Somali pirates with 537 crew members taken hostage. A further 21 vessels were fired upon by Somali pirates in the same period. As of 30 September 2008, 12 vessels remain captive and under negotiation with over 250 crew being held hostage.

Captain Mukundan added: “The number of piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia is unprecedented. Pirates in the Gulf of Aden are growing increasingly brazen, attacking vessels, including tanker and large bulk carriers, with impunity. This major international seaway requires immediate increased protection and naval intervention.”

The shift of attacks from the East coast of Somalia into the Gulf of Aden as initially indicated in the IMB second quarter report, has begun to threaten shipping and trade passing through this extremely important trade route between Asia and Europe.

The IMB Live World Piracy Map, viewable at www.icc-ccs.org, best illustrates this geographical shift in global piracy. Of the 63 reported incidents in the Somalia area, 51 have been reported in the Gulf of Aden and 12 off the east coast of Somalia. Attacks in the Gulf of Aden involved vessels being indiscriminately fired upon by automatic weapons, as well as the use of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG).

Captain Mukundan added: “The number of incidents in Somali waters would certainly be higher were it not for the efforts of the Coalition naval units and the Yemeni Coastguard. Their actions have prevented numerous hijackings in the Gulf of Aden in the last quarter.”

With 24 reported incidents, Nigeria was second only to Somalia in reported attacks for Q3 2008. At least 20 of these attacks occurred in Lagos. IMB research suggest that a significant percentage of piracy activity in this region remains unreported, particularly in the oil producing Delta region.

Indonesia ranked third in piracy activity with 23 reported incidents. All except two of these cases were low risk incidents aimed largely at the theft of valuables and stores from vessels. Unlike the geographically concentrated attacks reported in Nigeria and Somalia, acts of piracy in Indonesia were scattered throughout the Indonesian archipelago. While still an area of concern, the IMB is pleased to note that on annual basis, the overall number of attacks in Indonesia is decreasing.

Another area which appears to be having success in combating piracy is the formerly piracy riddled Malacca Straits. Only two incidents were reported in Q3 2008, the same number as the corresponding period in 2007.

The IMB urges all shipmasters, owners / managers and those involved in the industry to report piratical or armed robbery incidents to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC). The PRC is the only 24 hour manned centre able to receive and process reports of attacks from around the world. This timely, first hand information will enable the IMB to identify high-risk areas to the governments concerned and is the first essential step in the response chain.

A complete copy of the IMB quarterly report detailing and analyzing trends in international piracy is available free of charge.