Although the problem is comparatively under control in Asian waters, there is no room for complacency
AFTER over a year without a successful hijack by Somalia-based pirates, it is tempting to forget about the issue. That would be very wrong for two reasons. One is that some 50 seafarers are still being held ashore in Somalia. Freeing them ought to be top priority for governments, but it is not.
The second reason is that while piracy has been kept in check by navies and, at least as important, by armed guards in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, the situation has got much worse off the West coast of Africa.
Now, the London-based ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which runs its 24-hour international Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) in Kuala Lumpur, is asking ships to be extra vigilant when transiting West African waters. Since the beginning of the year, one vessel, the tanker Kerala, has been hijacked and six were boarded in West Africa. There was also one attempted attack.
IMB says that the hijacking of the Liberian-flag product tanker in January off Luanda in Angolan waters by Nigerian pirates has sparked fears these gangs are venturing further South. The vessel was released by the pirates eight days later after the cargo was illegally transferred in a ship-to-ship operation along the West African coast.