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Anti-piracy NGO says West Africa, Somalia and South-East Asia remained problem areas in 2016

03 May 2017

A report issued on May 2 by anti-piracy NGO Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) found an upsurge in pirate activity in some areas, and residual problems in areas where previous years had seen a reduction in piracy. The 2016 State of Maritime Piracy report includes analyses of the situation in the Western Indian Ocean, West Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

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The main areas with significant pirate activity were West Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Sulu and Celebes Seas between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Armed attacks on ships in West African waters nearly doubled in 2016, with pirates increasingly focused on kidnapping crews for ransom off Nigeria's coast. OBP recorded 95 attacks in West Africa's Gulf of Guinea in 2016, up from 54 the previous year.

Cargo theft, once the main focus of piracy in the region, has given way to an increase in kidnappings, with 96 crew members taken hostage in 18 separate incidents, compared to 44 in 2015.

OBP estimated the total economic cost of maritime crime in West Africa at nearly $794 million.

"One of the reasons we are observing increased incidents of kidnap for ransom is that the model offers financial gain with less risk to the perpetrators than hijacking for cargo theft," said Maisie Pigeon, one of the authors of the OBP report.

Key Horn/East Africa findings show that the total cost of counter-piracy operations in the Western Indian Ocean has evend out at around $1.5 billion.

As coalition forces have ended or decreased their commitments, independent deployments from various countries such as China, India and Japan now account for the majority of days on station with relation to naval counter-piracy operations.

In an attempt to lower costs, ship operators are increasingly shifting towards privately contracted armed security teams comprising three rather than four members (almost 70% in Q4 2016).

The OBP says decreased vigilance and deterrence in this area is providing pirate networks with the opportunity to attack vulnerable vessels.

There were 27 reported incidents in 2016, although no vessels were successfully hijacked.
The Hostage Support Partnership (HSP) secured the release 26 Naham 3 crew members, who were held for over 4 ½ years and released on 22 October 2016. Eight crew members taken from the Iranian dhow Siraj in 2015 have yet to be released.

Piracy and armed robbery in the Western Indian Ocean region affected a total of 545 seafarers in 2016 at a total cost of $1.7 billion, up from $1.3 billion in 2015. Some $725 million of this was contracted maritime services and another $225 million the cost of international naval activities.

In Asia, although there was a reduction in the number of seafarers subjected to attacks (2,283, down from 3,674 in 2015), the plethora of incidents in the Sulu and Celebes Seas has meant that many vessels are re-routing around these waters. In 2016, 67 seafarers were taken hostage in 21 incidents in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, with 6 killed.

OBP says it believes that it is possible to end violence at sea and that identifying and explaining the significance of these crimes is an important step in achieving this mission.

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