Maritime Piracy Down Overall; Attacks on Rise in Waters of Southeast Asia

 

March 2015

 

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When it comes to maritime piracy, the oceans overall are becoming safer every year – but not for those sailing through the South China Sea.

 

Maritime piracy levels have dropped to the lowest point in the past eight years, according to the latest annual report from the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau (IMB). One particular hot spot, the coastal waters of Somalia, has declined 58 percent since its peak piracy levels in 2011. Unfortunately, this news is paired with a steady increase in piracy in the waters of Southeast Asia.

 

In total, the IMB’s report found that 245 incidents were reported worldwide in 2014, a 44 percent drop since 2011. In addition, of the 11 attacks perpetrated by Somali pirates, all of them were thwarted. While Somali pirates are still a threat, the downtrend is certainly good news.

 

However, the most dangerous region for a ship and crew is now the South China Sea and other Asian waterways, which account for 75 percent of global piracy. In total, 21 vessels were hijacked last year, 183 were boarded, and 13 were fired upon. Some 442 crewmembers were held hostage, up from 304 in 2013. Four crew members died, 11 were injured and nine were kidnapped.

 

As UK Chamber of Shipping CEO Guy Platten said, “These new figures are welcome, and show that military and civil cooperation has made a huge difference to solving maritime security concerns. But while most of the media and Hollywood attention has been focused on Somali-based piracy, the worrying trends emerging in the Gulf of Guinea and Singapore Straits have received little attention.”

 

The number of attacks in Asia last year is the highest since 2006, when the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), a coordinating body with 20 government members, started compiling incident reports.

 

Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB, noted, “Gangs of armed thieves have attacked small tankers in the region (Southeast Asia) for their cargoes, many looking specifically for marine diesel and gas oil to steal and then sell.”

 

In West Africa, most of the hijackings were of product tankers or smaller craft that were taken with the intent of using those vessels to hijack additional product tankers, the IMB reported. Once a tanker is hijacked, the pirates then offload the oil or other cargo into smaller tankers.

 

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