By Mark Edward Nero
Piracy and armed robbery at sea has fallen to its lowest levels since 1995, despite a surge in kidnappings off West Africa, according to a new report from the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau.
The IMB’s global piracy report shows 98 incidents in the first half of 2016, compared with 134 for the same six months in 2015. When piracy was at its highest, in 2010 and 2003, the IMB recorded 445 attacks a year.
In the first half of 2016, the IMB recorded 72 vessels boarded, five hijackings and 12 attempted attacks, while nine ships were fired upon. Sixty-four crewmembers were taken hostage onboard, down from 250 during the same period last year.
“This drop in world piracy is encouraging news,” IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan said in a statement. “Two main factors are recent improvements around Indonesia, and the continued deterrence of Somali pirates off East Africa.”
“But ships need to stay vigilant, maintain security and report all attacks, as the threat of piracy remains, particularly off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea,” he added.
Despite global improvements, kidnappings were found to be on the rise, with 44 crew captured for ransom in 2016, 24 of them in Nigeria, up from 10 in the first half of 2015.
“In the Gulf of Guinea, rather than oil tankers being hijacked for their cargo, there is an increasing number of incidents of crew being kidnapped for ransom,” Mukundan explained.
The Gulf of Guinea accounted for seven of the world’s 10 kidnapping incidents, with armed gangs boarding vessels 30 to 120 nautical miles from shore. Nigerian attacks are often violent, accounting for eight of the nine vessels fired upon worldwide.