Piracy increased on the world’s seas in 2018, with a marked rise in attacks against ships and crews around West Africa, the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) latest annual piracy report reveals.
Worldwide, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded 201 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery in 2018, up by over 11 per cent from 180 in 2017.
The Gulf of Guinea remains increasingly dangerous for seafarers. Reports of attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2018, accounting for all six hijackings worldwide, 13 of the 18 ships fired upon, 130 of the 141 hostages taken globally, and 78 of the 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom.
The region saw a significant new spike in violence in the last quarter of 2018. Vessels have been boarded by pirates well outside territorial waters, with crew kidnapped and taken into Nigeria where they are held for ransom.
In the last three months of 2018, 41 kidnappings were recorded in waters off Nigeria alone. On October 27, 2018, 11 crew were kidnapped from a container vessel 70 nautical miles off Bonny Island, Nigeria. Two days later, Nigerian pirates in a speedboat hijacked a tanker underway 100 nautical miles off Point Noire, Congo. Eight of the 18 crew were kidnapped. These are just two recent examples of how armed criminals are reaching further out to sea and targeting a wider variety of ships: bulk carriers, container vessels, and general cargo vessels in addition to local attacks on tankers, oil industry support vessels, and fishing vessels.
Although no ships were hijacked in the region, pirates fired upon a Suezmax tanker in the Gulf of Aden, as well as a product tanker and a capsize bulk carrier more than 260 nautical miles from the Somali coastline. IMB urges masters to continue to maintain high levels of vigilance when transiting these waters and to follow the latest BMP regulations. This also highlights the requirement for the continued presence of the European Union and international navies around the Horn of Africa.
Patrols by the Indonesia Marine Police have seen the number of incidents drop for the third successive year. The majority of the 36 Indonesian reports were low level opportunistic thefts. Six crew, however, were taken hostage and threatened, indicating the need to be vigilant.
Attacks off Sabah, eastern Malaysia, continue to be a cause of concern with five crew from two fishing boats reported as kidnapped. Separately, four attackers in a speedboat fired on a tug, and the master was shot in the leg.
Ten incidents have been reported from the Philippine Islands—down from 22 in 2017. Batangas anchorage accounts for five of these. In one attack, suspected militants fired upon a general cargo ship. The prompt action of the crew and the Philippine Coast Guard ensured the vessel’s safety, although a crewmember was injured by gunfire.
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