Piracy attacks in the first quarter of 2017 was higher than the same period last year and included two hijackings off the coast of Somalia, according to figures from the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau in its Q1 2017 piracy report. Pirates and armed robbers attacked 43 ships and captured 58 seafarers in Q1, and the global report highlights persisting violence in piracy hot spots off Nigeria and around the southern Philippines.
Indonesia also reported frequent incidents, mostly low-level thefts from anchored vessels. Armed pirates hijacked 2 vessels, a small bunkering tanker and a traditional dhow off the coast of Somalia, where no merchant ship had been hijacked since May 2012. 4 attempted incidents were also received by IMB.
The 3 major concerns highlighted by the IMB report were kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea, growing violence around the southern Philippines, and the first Somali hijackings after a 5-year lull.
Of the 27 seafarers kidnapped worldwide for ransom between January and March 2017, 63% were in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria is the main kidnap hot spot, with 17 crew taken in 3 separate incidents, up from 14 in the same period last year. All 3 vessels, a general cargo ship, a tanker and a bulk carrier, were attacked while underway 30-60 nautical miles off the Bayelsa coast. 3 more ships were fired upon at up to 110 nautical miles from land, and many other attacks are believed to go unreported.
In the southern Philippines, 9 ships reported attacks in the first quarter of 2017 compared with just 2 in the same period last year. These include an armed attack on a general cargo vessel in which 2 crew were killed and 5 kidnapped for ransom.
As for the hijackings off Somalia, as 28 crew were taken hostage and subsequently released within a relatively short time. IMB suspects that these incidents were opportunistic, particularly as the hijacked vessels were not following the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy (BMP4) recommendations.
Nigeria has been a problem area for some time but the increase in incidents in the southern Philippines is a huge worry as is the re-emergence of hijacking in Somalia.
Firm action needs to be taken quickly to ensure that the seas are safe for our seamen and our ships.