Friday, October 21, 2011
Piracy has reached record levels with 352 attacks reported worldwide so far this year, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a report released earlier this week.
Somali pirates were behind 56% of the attacks reported this year, the IMB revealed in its latest global piracy report.
However, more Somali hijack attempts were being thwarted by strengthened anti-piracy measures.
“Figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea in the past nine months are higher than we’ve ever recorded in the same period of any past year,” said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan, whose Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) has monitored piracy worldwide since 1991.
Demanding millions of dollars in ransom for captured ships and their crews, Somali pirates are intensifying operations not just off their own coastline, but further afield in the Red Sea – particularly during the monsoon season in the wider Indian Ocean.
With unprecedented boldness, this August pirates also boarded and hijacked a chemical tanker at anchor in an Omani port, under the protection of coast state security, the report said.
But although Somali pirates are initiating more attacks – 199 this year, up from 126 for the first nine months of 2010 – they are managing to hijack fewer vessels. Only 24 vessels were hijacked this year compared with 35 for the same period in 2010. Hijackings were successful in just 12% of all attempts this year, down from 28% in 2011.
IMB said that it credited this reduction in hijackings to policing and interventions by international naval forces, correct application of the industry's latest Best Management Practice – including the careful consideration of the crews’ retreat to a 'citadel' – and other on board security measures.
“Somali pirates are finding it harder to hijack ships and get the ransom they ask for. The navies deserve to be complimented on their excellent work: they are a vital force in deterring and disrupting pirate activity,” said Capt Mukundan. “The number of anti-piracy naval units must be maintained or increased.”
So far this year, pirates have taken 625 people hostage worldwide. They have killed eight people and injured 41.
A warning was given regarding events off the West African coast off Benin, which saw a surge in violent piracy, with 19 attacks leading to eight tanker hijackings this year, up from zero incidents in 2010.
A pattern had emerged where armed pirates boarded and hijacked the ship – sometimes injuring crew – then forced the Masters to sail to an unknown location where they stole the ship’s properties and cargo and then set the vessel free.
Piracy and armed robberies in Asian waters, including the Indian sub-continent, went down from 106 in the first three quarters of 2010 to 87 in the same period this year.