Posted on April 12, 2018 by Ashleigh Cowie

The level of pirate attacks in the first quarter of this year is the highest it has been for over 5 years. The ICC International Maritime Bureau have issued their Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships report, detailing the pirate-related incidents that have occurred over the last 3 months, compared to same period in previous years.

In the report the number of pirate attacks/attempted attacks has reached 66 globally for the first 3 months in 2018. This is almost double the number of attacks in the first quarter of 2016 and over ten attacks higher than any of the first quarters in the last 5 years.

Maritime Security Specialist and Co-founder of ARX Maritime, Steve Regis notes that not only does piracy seem to be rising, but the type of attack is also worsening. In January-March 2016 , 28 people were held hostage, with the number the following year rising to 31. However, in the same period this year, the number of people held hostage is already at 100, around 200% higher than the previous years.

“One hundred crew members have been taken hostage in the first three months of this year, most of these violently beaten it seems.  Try and picture one hundred people that you know personally; it’s important to realise the human cost of this as well as the financial impact.

The report identifies the Gulf of Guinea as the hotspot for hostage takings: “with the exception of one crew member, all crew kidnappings and hostages taken occurred in the Gulf of Guinea.”

For Security Specialist, Steve Regis, the significance with the attacks in this region is the pattern that they follow:

“The ICC-IMB report into global piracy shows a significant rise on the same quarter in the previous year. The Gulf of Guinea is clearly a ultra-high risk area, particularly for vessels carrying gas-oil. It follows a standard pattern of hijacking, destroying GPS/AIS and sailing to an alternative location to carry out a ship to ship operation to steal the cargo.  All quite a sophisticated and well-drilled operation in my opinion.

He continues: “Of note for me are the two incidents relating to Somali piracy, with one successful boarding and vessels being fired upon and pursued by skiffs, the timing of which could match the release and return of a large number of Somali’s that had served prison sentences for piracy. 

“Whilst this is a small number in the grand scheme of things I think this is more an indication of things to come. The social and economic conditions that gave rise to the first wave of Somali piracy still remain the same, so this is an area that is likely to see an upsurge in pirate activity.  Whilst operating off the coast of Nigeria requires immediate additional resources and response, my one-to-watch will be Somali piracy towards the later part of the year.”

The report covers piracy from across the globe, but Nigeria ranks as the top for the number of incidents. The report draws on the level of violence involved in attacks in this region:

“Nigeria: Pirates/robbers are often well armed, violent and have attacked, hijacked and robbed vessels/ kidnapped crews along the coast, rivers, anchorages, ports and surrounding waters”

“As a country, Nigeria recorded 22 incidents. Of the 11 vessels fired upon, eight occurred off Nigeria”

Violent attacks are not only common in Nigeria; 2018 saw a stark increase in the number of attacks that involved guns and armed pirates. This is a trend that is worth considering when you choose how to harden your vessel. Between 2014 and 2017 the number of gun related incidents failed to reach more than 14 for the same quarter. Whereas, in 2018 the number of gun attacks reached 27. That’s double the amount on any of the last five years.

The increase in the sophistication of the equipment used during the attacks reflects the style of piracy that is now evolving. ARX Maritime have released a full whitepaper from Security Analyst, Lawrie Clapton. In the report, Clapton draws parallels between the increase in war and the increase in piracy, while also aligning pirates with terrorists. Terrorists are often the strategists in these events, with piracy providing the political statement. Terrorists are out to achieve as much damage as possible and inflicting this on foreign bodies has served as a way to spread their threat the widest. With social unrest increasing in many of these key areas, the use of piracy as an income will always remain prevalent. While the terrorists use pirates to perform their political aim, the pirates are able to source arms from terror groups making boardings and hijackings ever more efficient.

Posted in Openbridge , Security , Safety , Operations

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