Cases of piracy and armed robbery against vessels reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) dropped to their lowest level in 22 years in 2017. However, incidents near the Philippines and Somalia bucked the trend by increasing in frequency.
The bureau said 180 incidents were reported across the globe, which is the lowest since 188 incidents in 1995. In total 136 ships were boarded, with 22 attempted attacks, 16 vessels fired upon and six were hijacked.
Overall, 91 crew members were taken as hostages in 15 incidents. Tragically, three crew were killed and six injured in 2017.
A year earlier, 191 incidents were reported. It included 150 vessel boardings and 151 crew being held hostage.
Trouble spots identified in the IMB report include the Gulf of Guinea (36 incidents) and Nigerian waters (10 kidnappings involving 65 crew).
Of the 16 ships that reported being fired upon, seven incidents occurred in the Gulf of Guinea.
“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,” IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan said.
“The Nigerian authorities have intervened in a number of incidents, helping to prevent incidents from escalating.”
Nine piracy attack reports were filed in Somalia, up from two in 2016. They include the attack on a boxship by armed perpetrators about 280 nautical miles east of Mogadishu. After they failed to board, they launched two rocket-propelled grenades that missed their target, before they escaped.
Six of the perpetrators were subsequently apprehended by the European Union Naval Force, sent to the Seychelles and charged for acts of piracy. They face up to 30 years of jail time if found guilty.
“This dramatic incident … 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 experienced 43 incidents in 2017 (down from 49 in 2016) as marine police ramped up patrols in the nation’s 10 designated safe anchorages.
But the Philippines witnessed a more than twofold jump in reported incidents, from 10 in 2016 to to 22.
“The majority of these incidents were low-level attacks on anchored vessels, mainly at the ports of Manila and Batangas,” the bureau’s report said.
“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 … have since helped to avoid further successful attacks.”