October 23, 2008
Pirates believe they can operate with impunity
Somali pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden "believe that they can operate with impunity in attacking vessels," says Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center (PRC).
The PRC's latest quarterly piracy statistics indicates an increase in attacks that is directly attributed to heightened piracy activity off the Somali Coast, particularly in the Gulf of Aden.
A total of 199 incidents was reported to the PRC in the first nine months of 2008. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of incidents reported in the third quarter (83) as compared to the first (53) and second quarters (63) of 2008. In the first nine months of 2008, worldwide 115 vessels were boarded, 31 vessels hijacked and 23 vessels fired upon. A total of 581 crewmembers were taken hostage, nine kidnapped, nine killed and seven are missing presumed dead.
As compared to the corresponding period last year the total number of actual attacks reported has increased. The types of attacks, the violence associated with the attacks, the number of hostages taken and the amounts paid in ransoms for the release of the vessels have all increased.
The Gulf of Aden and East coast of Somalia rank as the number one piracy hotspot with 63 incidents reported, accounting for almost a third of the overall reported attacks.
A total of 26 vessels were hijacked by Somali pirates with 537 crew members taken hostage. A further 21 vessels were also fired upon by Somali pirates in the same period. As of September 30, 2008, there were still 12 vessels under negotiation with over 250 crew held as hostage.
Captain Mukundan stated: "Piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia are unprecedented. It is clear that pirates in the Gulf of Aden believe that they can operate with impunity in attacking vessels--some of which have included tankers and large bulk carriers. The cost to owners whose vessels are hijacked is significant. What is required is robust action against the pirates' mother ships before they succeed in hijacking vessels. The locations and descriptions of these mother ships are known. We therefore call upon all governments to direct their navies to disrupt the activities of the pirates and their mother ships. This is vital to protect this major world seaway"
The shift of piratical attacks from the East coast of Somalia into the Gulf of Aden as initially indicated in the IMB second quarter report, has begun to threaten shipping and trade passing through this extremely important trade route between Asia and Europe.
Of the 63 reported incidents in this area, 51 have been reported in the Gulf of Aden and 12 off the east coast of Somalia. Attacks in the Gulf of Aden involve vessels being indiscriminately fired upon by automatic weapons resulting in the loss of life of one crewmember. The use of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) has resulted in damaging the hull of a tanker causing minor pollution.
Nigeria holds second spot with 24 reported incidents received. Of these at least 20 attacks have taken place in Lagos. The IMB is aware that this represents only a small percentage of the actual attacks particularly in the oil producing Delta region.
Indonesia is the third highest ranking country with 23 reported incidents. All except two of these cases are low level incidents aimed at theft of valuables and stores from the vessel. Unlike Nigeria and Somalia, the attacks are not concentrated and are scattered throughout the Indonesian archipelago. The IMB congratulates Indonesia on bringing the overall number of attacks down, year on year.
Two incidents have been reported for the Malacca Straits, the same number as for the corresponding period in 2007. The littoral states should also be complimented for the continued and enhanced co-operation that has been in existence since 2004 which is directly attributable to keeping the overall number of incidents in this important strategic chokepoint down.
The IMB urges all shipmasters, owners / managers and those involved in the industry to report piratical or armed robbery incidents to the IMB Piracy Reporting Center (PRC).