By Marcus Hand from Singapore
Small tanker attacks in Southeast Asia spurred a jump in the number of ship hijackings in 2014, despite an overall fall in the number of piracy attacks.
While the global number of reported piracy attacks was down to 245 in 2014 according the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), 44% lower the Somali piracy peak of 2011, the number of hijackings was up at 21 last year compared to 12 in 2013.
“The global increase in hijackings is due to a rise in attacks against coastal tankers in South East Asia,” said Pottengal Mukundan, director of IMB.
“Gangs of armed thieves have attacked small tankers in the region for their cargoes, many looking specifically for marine diesel and gas oil to steal and then sell.”
The IMB highlighted the death of a crew member shot in an attack on a bitumen tanker in December as a possibility the incidents were becoming more violent. It is believed the pirates targeted the wrong vessel as it was carrying a cargo of bitumen rather than gas oil which they could have siphoned off as they have in other similar attacks.
The IMB commended the role of the Indonesian Marine Police and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency in combatting the attacks.
“It is important that these gangs are caught and punished under law, before the attacks become more audacious and violent,” Mukundan said.
West Africa remains a cause for concern with 41 attacks reported and the IMB believes many more went unreported. Five vessels were hijacked in West Africa last year. “Hijackings of product tankers appeared to subside in the last quarter of 2014, with the last reported case at the end of July 2014,” the IMB noted.