A total of 102 incidents of piracy and armed robbery were reported during the first quarter of this year, according to figures released by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) global piracy report.
Some 11 vessels were reported hijacked worldwide, with 212 crew members taken hostage and four crew killed. A further 45 vessels were boarded, with 32 attempted attacks and 14 vessels fired upon – the latter attributed to either Somali or Nigerian pirates.
Noting the increasing problems off West Africa, the report said that 10 reports were received from Nigeria in the beginning of this year, equalling the same number reported for the whole of the area last year. A further attack in neighbouring Benin was also attributed to Nigerian pirates.
These reports include the hijackings of one product and one chemical tanker, resulting in a total of 42 crew members taken hostage.
“Nigerian piracy is increasing in incidence and extending in range,” said Pottengal Mukundan, IMB Piracy Reporting Centre director. “At least six of the 11 reported incidents in Nigeria occurred at distances greater than 70 nautical miles from the coast, which suggests that fishing vessels are being used as motherships to attack shipping further afield.”
Attacks in Nigerian coastal waters have also resulted in at least three crew kidnapped from their anchored vessel, the report said.
“While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia and hijacked vessels are under control of the pirates for days rather than months, the level of violence against crew is dangerously high,” Mukundan warned.
Somalia continued to dominate figures with 43 attacks, including the hijacking of nine vessels and the taking hostage of 144 crew. But while the number of 2012 incidents and hijackings are less than reports for the same period in 2011 (97 incidents, 16 hijackings), it is unlikely that the threat of Somali piracy will diminish in the short to medium term unless further actions are taken, the IMB said.
The report attributed the reduction in overall attacks to the disruptive actions and pre-emptive strikes by the navies in the region, which disrupted numerous pirate action groups, emphasising the importance of the navies in both deterring and combating Somali piracy.
The application of Best Management Practices and the increasing use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) also contributed to the decrease in the hijackings. More vessels with PCASP were reported in the first quarter than those not carrying armed personnel, the report said.
“The EU announcement to expand their anti-piracy mission to target pirates ashore is another welcome move that could further threaten the Somali piracy model,” Mukundan said.
As of 31st March 2012, suspected Somali pirates still held 15 vessels with 253 seafarers as hostages, with an additional 49 crew members being held hostage on land.
Elsewhere, the report said that there were noticeable increases in the number of armed robbery attacks in the Indonesian archipelago, up from five in 1Q11 to 18 in 1Q12.
*Meanwhile, pirates have released the 16,631 dwt chemical tanker ‘Enrico Ievoli’ and its crew, Italy's foreign ministry confirmed on Monday.
The vessel, with a crew of six Italians, five Ukrainians and seven Indians, was seized in the Arabian Sea, off the Omani coast, during the early hours of 27th December last year. http://www.tankeroperator.com/news/todisplaynews.asp?NewsID=3474