No vessel hijackings in past six months but danger remains: IMB

There were no reports of vessel hijackings in the second and third quarter 2018. Credit: US Navy
There were no reports of vessel hijackings in the second and third quarter 2018. Credit: US Navy

There were no reports of vessel hijackings between April and September this year, but the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC’s) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) cautions that the danger remains.

Data from ICC IMB shows 156 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the first three quarters of 2018, up from 121 incidents last year.

Thirty-two of the 156 incidents were attempted attacks, while 107 vessels were boarded, 13 vessels fired upon, and four were hijacked. The vessels that reported an actual or attempted attack during the period include 56 tankers, 51 bulk carriers, and 13 container vessels, among other vessel types.

There were no reports of vessel hijackings in the second and third quarter, the first time since 1994 that no such incidents were reported in two consecutive quarters. However, the number of crew members held hostage increased from 80 incidents in the first nine months of 2017 to 112 in 2018.

“While the record low number of hijackings in the second and third quarters of 2018 is of course to be celebrated, incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery remain common. ICC urges governments to leverage the timely data available from the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre to concentrate resources in these hotspots,” advised Pottengal Mukundan, director of IMB.

By geographical region, Africa and southeast Asia saw the most number of attacks, with 64 and 49, respectively, during the period. There were 25 incidents in the Americas, 14 in the Indian subcontinent and four in East Asia.

Nigeria remains a hot spot for piracy and armed robbery incidents, with 57 of the 156 incidents occurring in the Gulf of Guinea. Forty-one of 57 incidents were reported in and around Nigeria, while the Nigerian Navy has actively responded and dispatched patrol boats. There has also been a noticeable increase in the number of vessels boarded at the Takoradi anchorage in Ghana.

Over the nine-month period, 112 crew were taken hostage and 39 were kidnapped, while six were injured and seven were threatened.

Thirty-seven of 39 crew kidnapped for ransom globally were taken in the Gulf of Guinea region, across seven separate incidents. Nigeria also stands out, with 29 crew kidnapped in four separate incidents. This includes an incident in September, where 12 crew members were kidnapped from a bulk carrier off Bonny Island in Nigeria.

On the upside, piracy and armed robbery incidents are much fewer in other parts of the world. No new incidents were reported off the coast of Somalia in the third quarter, though two fishermen were kidnapped off Semporna, Malaysia, in September.

Incidents in other regions, including some parts of Latin America, trend towards low-level opportunistic theft, according to IMB. However, it cautioned all masters and crew members to be aware of such risks and report all incidents to IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre, which is manned round the clock.

“The centre will ensure that reported incidents are relayed without delay to the appropriate response agency and will liaise with the ship, its operators and the response agency until the vessel is deemed safe,” it said.

It also urged all ship masters and owners to report all actual, attempted, and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB.

“This first step in the response chain is vital to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle piracy. Transparent statistics from an independent, non‐political, international organisation can act as a catalyst to achieve this goal.”