INTERNATIONAL CRIME: Pirate Attacks Decline Off Somalia, but Rising in West Africa

October 25, 2012 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

Good News/Bad News

Updates photo caption to clarify nature of burning vessel.

Somalia Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

Pirate attacks by Somali pirates have fallen to their lowest level since 2009, an international piracy monitoring group says, but violent attacks and ship hijackings are on the rise off the coast of West Africa, the Paris-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) adds.

The IMB says that in the first nine months of 2012, there were 70 attacks on ships in and around Somali waters, compared with 199 for the same period last year. And for the third quarter (July-September) only one ship reported an attempted attack by suspected Somali pirates compared to to 36 incidents for the same three-month period in 2011.

Worldwide, six crew members have been killed and 448 seafarers have been taken hostage by pirates, according to the IMB report. The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre said 125 ships were boarded, 24 were hijacked and 26 were fired upon during the first nine months of 2012. Additionally, 58 attempted attacks were reported. For the year through September, there were 233 incidents worldwide. The most recent incident occurred Wednesday (Oct. 24, see photo).

The IMB, a unit of the International Chamber of Commerce, has been monitoring world piracy since 1991.

A suspected pirate ship burns off the coast of Somalia after being fired upon by the Dutch warship HNMLS Rotterdam, the flagship for NATO’s Ocean Shield counter-piracy mission. The Rotterdam opened fire when the pirate ship and suspected pirates ashore began shooting at a boarding party from the Dutch ship coming to inspect the suspicious fishing dhow on Oct. 24, 2012. (NATO courtesy photo)

As of September 30, 11 vessels were being held for ransom by suspected Somali pirates along with 188 crew members held hostage on land or aboard ship.

The IMB says the drop in piracy incidents around the Horn of Africa (see map above) is due to stepped up policing and interventions by international navies — including the European Union’s Operation Atalanta, NATO and Combined Task Force 151 — and individual ships’ use of armed guards and other onboard security measures.

Gulf of Guinea

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

But it’s a different story in West Africa where piracy and kidnapping are growing problems, the IMB says. In the Gulf of Guinea there were 34 incidents between January 1 and September 30 — up from 30 last year. The IMB said attacks are often violent and aimed at stealing refined oil products which can be easily sold on the open market. Togo reported three vessels hijacked, two boarded and six reported attempted attacks. One ship was hijacked and another boarded off Benin. There were 21 attacks reported by Nigerian authorities: nine vessels were boarded, four were hijacked and seven fired upon. There was also one attempted attack.

IMB Director Captain Pottengal Mukundan commended the Nigerian Navy for its reaction in a number of incidents where it played a key role in rescuing ships from pirates. The full report can be found here, but note it has strict copyright restrictions on being reprinted.

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Entry filed under: Africa, International Crime, Naval Warfare, News Developments, Special Operations. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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