A total of 121 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were
reported in the first nine months of 2017, according to the International
Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) latest quarterly
report on maritime piracy.
The flagship global report notes that, while piracy rates were down
compared to the same period of 2016, there is continuing concern over attacks
in the Gulf of Guinea and in South-East Asia.
The increase in attacks off the coast of Venezuela and other security
incidents against vessels off Libya—including an attempted boarding in the last
quarter—highlights the need for vigilance in other areas. In total, 92 vessels
were boarded, 13 were fired upon, there were 11 attempted attacks, and five
vessels were hijacked in the first nine months of 2017, said a release.
No incidents were reported off the coast of Somalia in this quarter, though
the successful attacks from earlier in the year suggest that pirates in the
area retain the capacity to target merchant shipping at distances from the
coastline. Here are four main takeaways from the report:
Malaysia’s success story
One vessel was reportedly hijacked in the third quarter of 2017 when a Thai
product tanker was attacked off Pulau Yu in Malaysia in early September.
However, thanks to the prompt intervention of the Malaysian Maritime
Enforcement Agency, 10 hijackers were successfully apprehended and the tanker
was safely escorted to a nearby port. The pirates were quickly tried and sentenced
to long periods of imprisonment.
"The Malaysian response demonstrates exactly the type of speedy and
robust action that is needed to deter such attacks," said Mr Pottengal
Mukundan, Director of IMB.
Nigeria remains risky
A total of 20 reports against all vessel types were received for Nigeria,
of which 16 occurred off the coast of Brass, Bonny and Bayelsa. Guns were
reportedly used in 18 of the incidents and vessels were underway in 17 of 20
reports. 39 of the 49 crewmembers kidnapped globally occurred off Nigerian
waters in seven separate incidents. Other crew kidnappings in 2017 have been
reported 60 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria.
"In general, all waters in and off Nigeria remain risky, despite
intervention in some cases by the Nigerian Navy. We advise vessels to be
vigilant," said the report. "The number of attacks in the Gulf of
Guinea could be even higher than the figures reported as many incidents
continue to be unreported."
An uptick in violence off Venezuela
While only three low-level incidents took place in Venezuela during the
same period of 2016, the number this year racked up to 11. All vessels were
successfully boarded by robbers armed with guns or knives and mostly took place
at anchorage. Four crewmembers were taken hostage during these incidents, with
two assaulted and one injured.
Tackling piracy is a team effort
Perhaps the biggest takeaway of this quarter’s report is the proven
importance of the 24-hour manned IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), which has
provided the maritime industry, governments and response agencies with timely
and transparent data on piracy and armed robbery incidents received directly
from the vessels or owners, flag states or navies. The PRC’s prompt forwarding
of reports and liaison with response agencies—using Inmarsat Safety Net
Services and email alerts, all free of charge—has already helped bolster the
response against piracy and armed robbery, keeping seafarers safe.