Although piracy figures have fallen it remains a “massive concern” for seafarers according to charity Sailors’ Society. In the first nine months of 2017 the International Maritime Bureau said there were 121 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships reported, including 92 vessels boarded with 5 hijackings, 11 attempted attacks and 13 vessels fired upon.
Traditional area of piracy attacks such as the Straits of Malacca and the Gulf of Aden have seen a marked decrease in recent years but other parts of the world are now emerging as the piracy hot spots.
West Africa is a major problem with 95 attacks in 2016, up from 54 in the previous year. Most of these attacks were launched from Nigeria. Whereas pirates operating off the coast of Somalia have regularly attempted to hijack large vessels, the militants operating in Nigeria’s seas favor the method of kidnapping the crew of a ship, taking them onto land and going into hiding, where they demand a ransom. In 2016, 96 seafarers were taken hostage in West Africa.
Another area that is causing concern is off the coast of Venezuela. The collapse of the the Venezuelan economy has hit fisherman particularly hard. Many of these fisherman have turned to piracy, initially attacking fellow fishermen and stealing their catch and their boats, but now is has developed into boarding cargo ships. Four anchored cargo ships were boarded this year close to Puerto de la Cruz in the Anzoátegui state, to the west of Sucre.
At the time of writing, there have been 11 piracy incidents in the past month. Some of these have taken place in some surprising locations including Vietnam, Haiti, Manila, Singapore Straits, Indonesia and India showing that marine piracy is becoming a worldwide problem.
The old danger waters of the Malacca Straits have been virtually piracy free for some time now. This has been due to increased military patrols and a combined effort from the navies of several countries.
It is imperative that naval patrols increase regardless of expense in order to keep our waters, our ships and our seafarers safe.
I would like to wish all of our readers a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.