Piracy on the world’s seas has reached a five-year low, with 297 ships attacked in 2012, compared with 439 in 2011, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) global piracy report revealed today.
Worldwide figures were brought down by a huge reduction in Somali piracy, though East and West Africa remain the worst hit areas, with 150 attacks in 2012.
Globally, 174 ships were boarded by pirates last year, while 28 were hijacked and 28 were fired upon. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre also recorded 67 attempted attacks.
The number of people taken hostage onboard fell to 585 from 802 in 2011, while a further 26 were kidnapped for ransom in Nigeria. Six crewmembers were killed and 32 were injured or assaulted.
“IMB’s piracy figures show a welcome reduction in hijackings and attacks to ships. But crews must remain vigilant, particularly in the highly dangerous waters off East and West Africa,” said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, which has monitored piracy worldwide since 1991.
In Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, just 75 ships reported attacks in 2012 compared with 237 in 2011, accounting for 25% of incidents worldwide. The number of Somali hijackings was halved from 28 in 2011 to 14 last year.
IMB says navies are deterring piracy off Africa’s east coast, with pre-emptive strikes and robust action against mother ships. So too are private armed security teams and crews’ application of “Best Management Practices”.
But the threat and capability of heavily armed Somali pirates remains strong.
“The continued presence of the navies is vital to ensuring that Somali piracy remains low,” said Captain Mukundan. “This progress could easily be reversed if naval vessels were withdrawn from the area.”
Pirate mother ships and skiffs were reported in the Gulf of Oman, southern Red Sea and the Somali basin, with a number of attacks close to the Straits of Hormuz and the energy routes out of the Arabian Gulf.
As of 31 December 2012, Somali pirates still held 104 hostages on eight ships and 23 more were detained on land, pending negotiations for their release.
In Somalia, and elsewhere, vessels most commonly attacked are container ships, bulk carriers and tankers loaded with oil, chemicals and other products. Fishing vessels and other smaller boats are also at risk.