Despite the longest period without hijackings for more than 20 years, pirate attacks on shipping are well up in the first nine months of 2018 compared to the same period last year.
A total of 156 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported to the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) in the first nine months of 2018 compared to 121 for the same period in 2017.
The 2018 figure is broken down as 107 vessels boarded, 32 attempted attacks, 13 vessels fired upon and four vessels hijacked—although no vessels were reported as hijacked in the third quarter of 2018. This is first time since 1994 when no vessel hijackings have been reported in two consecutive quarters. Nevertheless, incidents of this crime persist, with the number of crew members held hostage increasing in comparison to the same period in 2017—from 80 incidents to 112 by the third quarter of 2018.
Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, said: “While the record low number of hijackings in the second and third quarters of 2018 is of course to be celebrated, incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery remain common. ICC urges governments to leverage the timely data available from the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre to concentrate resources in these hotspots.”
Statistically, the Gulf of Guinea accounts for 57 of the 156 reported incidents. While most of these incidents have been reported in and around Nigeria (41), the Nigerian Navy has actively responded and dispatched patrol boats when incidents have been reported promptly. There has also been a noticeable increase in the number of vessels boarded at the Takoradi anchorage, in Ghana.
It is noted that 37 of the 39 crew kidnappings for ransom globally have occurred in the Gulf of Guinea region, in seven separate incidents. A total of 29 crew members were kidnapped in four separate incidents off Nigeria—including a 12-crew kidnapping from a bulk carrier off Bonny Island, Nigeria in September 2018.
In other world regions, incidents of piracy and armed robbery are comparatively seldom. No new incidents have been reported off the coast of Somalia in the third quarter of 2018, while two fishermen were reported kidnapped off Semporna, Malaysia in September 2018.
Incidents in the remaining regions, including some Latin America countries, border on low-level opportunistic theft. Nevertheless, the IMB continues to encourage all masters and crew members to be aware of these risks and report all incidents to the 24-hour manned PRC. The Centre will ensure that reported incidents are relayed without delay to the appropriate response agency and will liaise with the ship, its operators and the response agency until the vessel is deemed safe.