44 seafarers have been captured so far this year amid growing violence off the coast of West Africa, new figures from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) show.
Worldwide, IMB recorded 37 piracy and armed robbery incidents in the first quarter of 2016, down from 54 in the same period last year. Three vessels were hijacked and 29 boarded, with 26 crew kidnapped for ransom and a further 28 held hostage.
With Nigeria and Ivory Coast accounting for two of the three hijackings recorded globally, and all 28 hostages, the Gulf of Guinea dominates world piracy in terms of numbers and severity. Additionally the region saw 16 crew kidnapped from chemical and product tankers in four separate incidents. Ten attacks were reported off Nigeria alone, all involving guns.
“Reports in the last quarter indicate unacceptable violence against ships and crews in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly around Nigeria. The current increase in kidnappings is a cause for great concern,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB.
Region-wise, IMB noted ten incidents off India in the first quarter of 2016. The seaport Kandla in Western India reported seven of these – more than for the whole of 2015. They were predominantly low-level thefts by groups of armed robbers targeting anchored vessels.
No small product tankers have been hijacked in South East Asia so far in 2016, after a spate of attacks between April 2014 and August 2015, which has been ascribed mainly due to actions taken by the Malaysian and Indonesian authorities against pirate gangs in 2015.
Indonesia recorded four low-level thefts, a noticeable reduction compared to the 21 incidents noted in the first quarter of 2015.
The Philippines was the location of the third hijacking this year, after the two product tankers hijacked off West Africa.
There were no recorded pirate attacks off Somalia. However, as of 31 March 2016, suspected Somali pirates continue to hold 29 crew members for ransom.