West Africa records 41 piracy cases in 2014 with 442 hostages


pirateThe West African coastline recorded 41 incidents of piracy, although many further attacks were unreported while pirates held 442 crew-members hostage compared to 304 in 2013, according to a report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

In and around Ghanaian waters, three vessels were hijacked between June and July -- one of which was a fishing vessel intended to be used as a platform to hijack tankers off Nigeria. Seven vessels were also boarded while anchored at Pointe-Noire, Republic of the Congo, with ship and crew properties targetted by the robbers.Nigeria’s coastline recorded 18 attacks involving 14 tankers and vessels associated with the oil industry; most were product tankers that were hijacked to steal and transship cargo into smaller tankers.

Worldwide, 21 vessels were hijacked last year; 183 were boarded, and 13 fired upon. Pirates killed four crew-members, injured 13 and kidnapped nine from their vessels. In the report five vessels were hijacked, including three tankers, one supply vessel and a fishing vessel. Hijackings of product tankers subsided in the last quarter of the year under review, with the last case at the end of July 2014. The report also revealed that attacks against small tankers off South East Asia’s coasts caused a rise in global ship hijackings, up to 21 in 2014 from 12 in 2013, despite piracy at sea falling to its lowest level in eight years.“IMB’s annual piracy report shows 245 incidents were recorded worldwide in 2014 -- a 44 percent drop since Somali piracy peaked in 2011.”

Somali pirates were responsible for 11 attacks, all of which were thwarted. However, IMB warns shipmasters to follow the industry’s Best Management Practices, as the threat of Somali piracy has not been eliminated.“The global increase in hijackings is due to a rise in attacks against coastal tankers in South East Asia,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB whose Piracy Reporting Centre has monitored world piracy since 1991. “Gangs of armed thieves have attacked small tankers in the region for their cargoes, many looking specifically for marine diesel and gas oil to steal and then sell.”

Citing the death of one crew-member shot on his bitumen tanker in December, the IMB report highlights the possibility of hijackings becoming increasingly violent. Most of the 124 attacks in the region were aimed at low-level theft from vessels using guns and long knives.The Bureau commended the Indonesian Marine Police’s efforts to stem the increase in attacks in identified port hotspots.

“Outside port limits, pirates are particularly active in the waters around Pulau Bintan and the South China Sea, where 11 vessels were hijacked in 2014. Actions taken by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, the Indonesian authorities and other maritime forces of regional coastal states, have played a key role in responding to these attacks.

“It is important that these gangs are caught and punished under law, before the attacks become more audacious and violent,” said Mr. Mukundan. Bangladesh reported 21 incidents in 2014, up from 12 in 2013. Seventeen anchored and three vessels underway were boarded.

The majority of incidents were low level thefts from vessels, although in one report three crew were taken hostage and two crew injured in two separate incidents. The Bangladesh Coast Guard helped respond to many calls for assistance from ship masters.

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