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News Extra - Despite global fall in sea piracy, West Africa and South East Asia remain areas of concern

01 April 2015

Attacks against small tankers off South East Asia’s coasts caused a rise in global ship hijackings, up to 21 in 2014 from 12 in 2013, despite piracy at sea falling to its lowest level in eight years, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has revealed. Pirates took 442 crewmembers hostage, compared with 304 in 2013.

Graphic - ICC International Maritime Bureau
Graphic - ICC International Maritime Bureau

IMB's annual piracy report shows 245 incidents were recorded worldwide in 2014 - a 44% drop since Somali piracy peaked in 2011. Somali pirates were responsible for 11 attacks, all of which were thwarted. However, IMB warns shipmasters to follow the industry's Best Management Practices in those seas, as the threat of Somali piracy has not been eliminated.

Worldwide, 21 vessels were hijacked last year, 183 were boarded, and 13 fired upon. Pirates killed four crewmembers, injured 13 and kidnapped nine from their vessels.

"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 whose Piracy Reporting Centre has monitored world piracy since 1991. "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."

Citing the death of one crewmember shot on his bitumen tanker in December, the IMB report highlights the possibility of the hijackings becoming increasingly violent. Most of the 124 attacks in the region were aimed at low-level theft from vessels using guns and long knives.
IMB commended the efforts of the Indonesian Marine Police and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency to stem the increase in attacks in identified hotspots, which include smaller ports, the waters around Pulau Bintan and the South China Sea.

In West Africa, 41 incidents were reported, although IMB says many further attacks went unreported. Five vessels were hijacked, including three tankers, one supply and a fishing vessel. Hijackings of product tankers appeared to subside in the last quarter of 2014, with the last reported case at the end of July 2014.

Of the 18 attacks off Nigeria, 14 involved tankers and vessels associated with the oil industry. Most were product tankers, hijacked to steal and tranship their cargo into smaller tankers. Earlier in the year the waters South and West of the Brass Terminal saw a particularly concerning spate of attacks.

In and around Ghanaian waters, in June and July three vessels were hijacked, and seven vessels were also boarded while anchored at Pointe-Noire, Republic of the Congo.
IMB figures show that 445 attacks on shipping were reported in 2010, 439 in 2011, 297 in 2012, 264 in 2013 and 245 in 2014.

Early 2015 has seen an upsurge in violent attacks off West Africa.

In February, The Maltese-flagged supertanker Kalamos was attacked in a waterway between Cameroon and Nigeria, resulting in the killing of the ship's Greek deputy captain and the kidnapping of three crew, who were later released.

There was another deadly attack in January when pirates killed a Nigerian seaman aboard the oil support vessel MV Jascon.

The International Maritime Bureau says the waters off Nigeria are now by far the deadliest in the world. Incidents in the region are thought to be significantly under-reported due to fear of further attacks and concerns over insurance.

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