Nigeria has been described by the International Maritime Bureau as the world’s piracy and kidnapping hotspot.
The IMB Director, Pottengal Mukundan, in a recently released second quarter report by the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre, said despite global improvement, cases of kidnap were on the rise in Nigeria.
On the whole, members of 44 crew have been captured for ransom in 2016; 24 of them in Nigeria. This is an increase of 10 for the same period under review in 2015, according to the report.
Mukundan said, “In the Gulf of Guinea, rather than oil tankers being hijacked for their cargo, there is an increase in number of incidents of crew being kidnapped for ransom.
“Attacks are often violent, accounting for eight of the nine vessels worldwide. Further assaults go unreported by shipowners.”
The Gulf of Guinea accounts for seven of the world’s 10 kidnapping cases, with armed gangs boarding vessels 30 to 120 nautical miles from shore.
Generally, piracy and armed robbery cases at sea have dropped to their lowest levels since 1995, despite a surge in kidnapping off West Africa.
The IMB’s global piracy report shows 98 incidents in the first half of 2016, compared with 134 for the same period in 2015. When piracy was at its highest, in 2010 and 2003, the IMB recorded an average of 445 attacks a year.
For the first half of 2016, the IMB recorded 72 boarded vessels, five hijackings, and 12 attempted attacks on vessels.
Mukundan said, “Nine ships were fired upon, 64 crew were taken hostage onboard, down from 250 in the same period last year.
“This drop in the world piracy is encouraging news. Two main factors are the recent improvements around Indonesia and the continued deterrence of Somali pirates off East Africa.”
He, however, warned that ships maintain vigilance and security, in addition to reporting all attacks. He added that the threat of piracy remained, particularly off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea.
Two further kidnap incidents off Sabah were recorded by the IMB. In the incident, tugs and barges were targeted. In early June, a tug and barge was hijacked off Balingian, Sarawak in Malaysia and its palm oil cargo stolen.
In Indonesia, the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre is said to be working closely with the Indonesian authorities to improve the security at sea and ports.
Low-level theft to ships at anchor has been brought down by introducing designated anchorages with improved security, according to the report.
This has contributed to a fall in the number of incidents in Indonesia to 24 in the first six months of 2016, compared with 54 recorded in the same period in 2015.
The IMB applauded the Indonesian Navy’s prompt response in recovering a hijacked product tanker, South of Pulau Serutu, off West Kalimantan in May. Nine pirates were apprehended and the crew of the tanker unharmed.
Mukundan said, “This is exactly the type of robust response required in response to such threats. All shipmasters and owners are strongly urged to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the local authorities as well as the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre.
“This first step in the response chain is vital to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle piracy. Transparent statistics from an independent, non-political, international organization can act as a catalyst to achieve this goal.”
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is the world’s only independent office to receive reports of pirate attacks 24-hours-a-day from across the globe.