Piracy increased on the world’s seas in 2018, with a marked rise in attacks against ships and crews around West Africa, according to a report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
Worldwide, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded 201 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery in 2018, up from 180 in 2017.
The Gulf of Guinea remained increasingly dangerous for seafarers as reports of attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2018. The incidents included all six hijackings worldwide, 13 of the 18 ships fired upon, 130 of the 141 hostages taken globally, and 78 of 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom.
The region saw a significant new spike in violence in the last quarter of 2018. Vessels have been boarded by pirates well outside territorial waters, with crew kidnapped and taken into Nigeria where they are held for ransom.
“There is an urgent need for increased cooperation and sharing of intelligence between the Gulf of Guinea’s littoral states so that effective action can be taken against pirates, both at sea and on-shore where their operations originate and end,” an IMB spokesman said.
In the last three months of 2018, 41 kidnappings were recorded in Nigerian waters alone. On October 27, 2018, 11 crew were kidnapped from a container vessel 70 nautical miles off Bonny Island, Nigeria. Two days later, Nigerian pirates in a speedboat hijacked a tanker underway 100 nautical miles off Point Noire, Congo. Eight of the 18 crew were kidnapped.
Although no ships were hijacked in the Somalia region, pirates fired upon a Suezmax tanker in the Gulf of Aden, as well as a product tanker and a capesize bulk carrier more than three hundred miles from the Somali coastline.
In Indonesia, patrols by the Marine Police have seen the number of incidents drop for the third successive year. The majority of the 36 Indonesian reports were low level opportunistic thefts. Six crew however were taken hostage and threatened, “indicating the need to be vigilant”.
Attacks off Sabah, eastern Malaysia, continue to be a cause of concern with five crew from two fishing boats reported as kidnapped. Separately four attackers in a speedboat fired on a tug, and the master was shot in the leg.
Ten incidents have been reported from the Philippine islands – down from 22 in 2017. Batangas anchorage accounts for five of these. In one attack, suspected militants fired upon a general cargo ship.