The global shipping industry reported 66 incidents of piracy in the first quarter, up from 43 a year earlier and 37 in Q1 2016, with the Gulf of Guinea accounting for most of the increase, the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre said in a Q1 report. A total of 100 crew members were taken hostage and 14 kidnapped from vessels in Q1, compared with 31 taken hostage and 27 kidnapped from vessels in the same period a year earlier, according to the report. A total of 39 vessels were boarded, 11 fired upon and four hijacked in Q1, IMB said, adding it received a further 12 reports of attempted attacks. “The hijacking of product tankers from anchorages in the Gulf of Guinea is a cause of concern. In these cases, the intent of the perpetrators is to steal the oil cargo and kidnap crew,” an IMB representative said, adding piracy in the region affected all vessel types. The Gulf of Guinea accounted for 29 incidents of piracy in Q1, more than 40% of the global total. All but one of the 114 seafarers captured worldwide was in this region. Nigerian waters remain a piracy hot spot, recording 22 incidents.

Of the 11 vessels fired upon worldwide, eight were off Nigeria, including a VLCC tanker more than 40 nautical miles off Brass. Somalia and the Gulf of Aden remain risky locations, said IMB. One incident was reported off Somalia, where a product tanker was fired upon and chased by two skiffs around 160 nautical miles southeast of Hobyo. At the end of March, a 160,000dwt tanker was fired upon in the Gulf of Aden while transitting within the Maritime Security Transit Corridor.

The distance from land, sighting of ladders and firing at ships continues to illustrate that Somali pirates retain the capabilities to attack merchant shipping in the wider Indian Ocean, IMB said. In Southeast Asia, low level attacks such as robberies were highlighted. IMB said it was working with Indonesian authorities to improve preventive actions and provide greater protection for ships. Nine low level attacks were reported for Indonesia, and IMB said many more may have gone unreported. Five bulk carriers reported actual or attempted attacks at Muara Berau anchorage in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, while waiting to load coal cargoes.

Incidents of piracy decreased when there was a strong naval presence in the Gulf of Aden but this military presence is not as strong as it was. We need to strengthen our naval forces and give more support to the seafarers who are risking their lives by sailing in these dangerous areas.

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