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LONDON/KUALA LUMPUR: July 25, 2016. Despite a surge in kidnappings off West Africa, piracy and armed robbery at sea has fallen to its lowest levels since 1995, according to a new report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

IMB, part of the International Chamber of Commerce, reported 98 incidents in the first half of 2016 (HI) compared to 134 for the same period in 2015. By comparison, in the years 2003 and 2010 the organization recorded 445 attacks.

HI 2016 saw 72 vessels boarded, five hijackings and 12 attempted attacks. Nine ships were fired upon - eight in Nigerian waters - and 64 crewmembers were held hostage on their vessels, down from 250 for the same period last year.

piracy picture"This drop in world piracy is encouraging news. Two main factors are recent improvements around Indonesia, and the continued deterrence of Somali pirates off East Africa," said Pottengal Mukundan, IMB director.

Nigeria remains the world's piracy kidnapping hotspot according to the IMB, with 24 out of a total of 44 crew held for ransom worldwide - up from 10 in the first half of 2015.

"In the Gulf of Guinea, rather than oil tankers being hijacked for their cargo, there is an increasing number of incidents of crew being kidnapped for ransom," commented Mukundan.

The Gulf of Guinea accounted for seven of the world's 10 kidnapping incidents in H1, with armed gangs boarding vessels 30-120 nautical miles offshore.

IMB reported two further kidnap incidents in HI that included one off Sabah and another off Balingian, Sarawak when a tug and barge were hijacked for a cargo of palm oil.

IMB said it had been working with the Indonesian government to improve security at sea and in the country's ports. As a result the number of reported incidents has fallen to 24 in HI 2016 compared to 54 last year.

IMB also noted the Indonesian Navy's prompt response in recovering a hijacked product tanker off west Kalimantan in May adding: "This is exactly the type of robust response required in response to such threats." Nine pirates were arrested and the tanker crew released unharmed.

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