Piracy incidents down, but don't relax

skull n bones redOCTOBER 17, 2013 — Piracy levels may be down, yet, as an attack on a VLCC earlier this month illustrated, the threat remains very real.

The latest International Maritime Bureau Piracy Report, published today, shows 188 piracy incidents in the first nine months of 2013, down from 233 for the same period last year and the lowest third-quarter tally since 2006, . Hostage-taking has also fallen markedly, with 266 people taken hostage this year, compared with 458 in the first three quarters of 2012.

In the first nine months of 2013, IMB's global figures show pirates hijacked 10 vessels, fired at 17, and boarded 140. A further 21 attacks were thwarted. In total 266 crew were taken hostage and 34 kidnapped. One seafarer was killed, twenty were injured, and one is reported missing.

IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan urged caution: "Although the number of attacks is down overall, the threat of attacks remains, particularly in the waters off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea. It is vital that ship masters continue to be vigilant as they transit these waters."

Attacks in seas around Somalia continued to fall dramatically, with just 10 incidents attributed to Somali pirates this year, down from 70 in the same nine months of 2012. IMB attributes this improvement to the actions of naval forces engaged in anti-piracy operations, security teams on board vessels, ships complying with the industry's best management practices, and the stabilizing influence of the Central Government of Somalia.

"The vital role of the navies off the coast of Somalia should not be underestimated. Their presence ensures that pirates do not operate with the impunity they did before," said Captain Mukundan.

IMB warns that as monsoons subside in NW Indian Ocean the weather will become more conducive for small pirate skiffs to operate again.

As of September 30, 2013, suspected Somali pirates held two vessels for ransom with 15 crew members on board. In addition, 49 kidnapped crewmembers are held on land, 37 of whom have been held for over two years.

With fewer attacks off Somalia, attention has moved to the Gulf of Guinea, a hotspot for violent piracy and ship hijacking for many years. The region recorded more than 40 piracy attacks in the first three quarters of 2013, with 132 crew taken hostage and seven vessels hijacked – six tankers and an offshore supply vessel. The Gulf of Guinea accounted for all crew kidnappings worldwide, 32 of them off Nigeria, and two off Togo.

Nigeria, the main source of piracy in the region, accounted for 29 piracy incidents, including two hijackings, 11 ships boarded, 13 vessels fired upon and three attempted attacks. Pirates, often heavily armed and violent, are targeting vessels and their crews along the coast, rivers, anchorages, ports and surrounding waters. In many cases, they ransack the vessels and steal the cargo, usually gas oil.

Coordinated patrols by Benin and Nigerian Authorities have helped reduce attacks in parts of the Gulf of Guinea. However, IMB warns that pirates move around the region if left unchecked, citing the hijacking of a tanker off Port Gentil, Gabon in July 2013, by suspected Nigerian pirates.

Elsewhere in the world, one area of rising armed robbery attacks is Indonesia. Here, IMB recorded 68 low-level attacks to vessels, nearly all at anchor. Robbers boarding the vessels were usually armed with knives or machetes. Detailing the most attacked anchorages in its piracy report. IMB calls for increased patrols, and warns ships to stay alert in these waters.

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