Pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden dropped to the lowest level since 2006, an international watch group says. The decline is attributed to naval action, hiring of¬†private security¬†personnel and other protective measures taken by commercial vessels.
The International Maritime Bureau or IMB, which has been monitoring world piracy for more than two decades, noted that the number of pirate attacks worldwide have fallen sharply in the first half of 2013, led by a drop in Somali piracy. At the same time, the pirates are focusing on violent piracy and armed robbery off the coast of West Africa.
A specialized division of the International¬†Chamber of Commerce, IMB prepares periodical reports based on incidents reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting¬†Center¬†or PRC.
Worldwide, PRC recorded 138 piracy incidents in the first six months of 2013, compared with 177 incidents for the corresponding period in 2012, says IMB’s global piracy report published on Monday. Seven hijackings have been recorded this year compared with 20 in the first half of 2012. The number of sailors taken hostage also fell dramatically; down to 127 this year from 334 in the first six months of 2012.
A rise in piracy and armed robbery is reported in the Gulf of Guinea – 31 incidents so far this year, including four hijackings. In addition, IMB reported a surge in kidnappings at sea and a wider range of ship types being targeted. This is a new cause for concern in a region already known for attacks against vessels in the oil industry and theft of gas oil from tankers.
“There has been a worrying trend in the kidnapping of crew from vessels well outside the territorial limits of coastal states in the Gulf of Guinea,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB. “In April 2013, nine crew members were kidnapped from two container vessels, one of which was 170 nautical miles from the coast… There continues to be significant under-reporting of attacks – a phenomenon highlighted by the IMB year on year. This prevents meaningful response by the authorities and endangers other vessels sailing into the area unaware of the precise nature of the threat.”
Armed pirates in the Gulf of Guinea took 56 sailors hostage and were responsible for all 30 crew kidnappings reported so far in 2013. One person was reported killed and at least another five injured. Attacks off Nigeria accounted for 22 of the region’s 31 incidents and 28 of the crew kidnappings.
Mukundan applauded the signing of the Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Ships, and Illicit Maritime Activity in West and Central Africa last month by the heads of the West and Central African countries.