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Published: 10 January 2018
Piracy incidents reach a 22-year low, says IMB report
180 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported to the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in 2017.
According to the latest IMB report, the 2017 figure is the lowest annual number of incidents since 1995, when 188 reports were received. In 2016, a total of 191 incidents were reported, with 150 vessels boarded and 151 crew members taken hostage.
The report drew attention to several problem areas, including the persistent danger to shipping in the Gulf of Guinea. “In 2017, there were 36 reported incidents with no vessels hijacked in this area and 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crew members in or around Nigerian waters. Globally, 16 vessels reported being fired upon—including seven in the Gulf of Guinea,” the IMB said in a press release.
“Although the number of attacks is down this year in comparison with last year, the Gulf of Guinea and the waters around Nigeria remain a threat to seafarers. The Nigerian authorities have intervened in a number of incidents helping to prevent incidents from escalating,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB.
Somalia was a much more dangerous area last year than in 2016, with nine incidents recorded off its coast, compared to just two in 2016. “In November, a container ship was attacked by armed pirates approximately 280 nautical miles east of Mogadishu. The pirates, unable to board the vessel due to the ship’s evasive manoeuvring fired two RPG rockets, both of which missed, before retreating,” IMB noted.
Six Somali pirates have been charged in the Seychelles with “committing an act of piracy” and, face up to 30 years’ imprisonment if convicted. The IMB noted the incident highlights the ability of Somali pirates to plan attacks from a distance. “This dramatic incident, alongside our 2017 figures, demonstrates that Somali pirates retain the capability and intent to launch attacks against merchant vessels hundreds of miles from their coastline,” said Mr Mukundan.
Indonesia could be described as a ‘steady’ risk of piracy, with 43 recorded incidents in 2017, down from 49 in 2016. Despite the high number, the IMB report notes that Indonesian Marine Police patrols continue to be effective in the country’s 10 designated safe anchorages.
In the Philippines, the number of reported incidents more than doubled from 10 in 2016 to 22 in 2017. “According to the report, the majority of these incidents were low-level attacks on anchored vessels, mainly at the ports of Manila and Batangas”. More seriously vessels underway off the Southern Philippines were boarded and crew kidnapped in the first quarter of 2017. “However, alerts broadcast by the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), on behalf of the Philippine authorities, have since helped to avoid further successful attacks,” the IMB noted.
Launched in 1991, the IMB PRC is a 24-hour manned centre that provides the maritime industry, governments and response agencies data on armed robbery incidents received directly from the master or owner of vessels. Reported attacks can be viewed online on the IMB Live Piracy Map.