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Rise of piracy off West Africa causes concerns
27 April 2012
The latest survey of piracy worldwide shows a worrying increase in incidents – often violent – off West Africa. Figures from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) global piracy report show that 102 incidents of piracy and armed robbery were reported in the first quarter of 2012. In this period, 11 vessels were reported hijacked worldwide, with 212 crewmembers taken hostage and four crew killed. A further 45 vessels were boarded, with 32 attempted attacks and 14 vessels fired on.
Although there has been a decrease in attacks by Somali pirates – down from 97 incidents in the first quarter of 2011 to 43 in the same period of 2012 – there has been an increase in attacks by Nigerian pirates, from 10 for the whole of 2011 to the same number in just the first three months of 2012. Nigerian pirates are also extending their range of operation, with at least six incidents taking place at more than 70 nautical miles from the coast, suggesting that piracy here is following the tactics of Somali pirates in using motherships from which to launch attacks.
Although Nigerian pirates hold hijacked vessels for less time than the Somali pirates, the level of violence against crews is "dangerously high", says the IMB. In one case, two crewmembers were killed when armed pirates boarded their vessel 110 nautical miles off Lagos, Nigeria.
Despite the fall in Somali pirate attacks, due largely to the presence and intervention of navies in the region, the IMB warns that "it is unlikely that the threat of Somali piracy will diminish in the short to medium term unless further actions are taken".
As of 31 March 2012, suspected Somali pirates still held 15 vessels with 253 crewmembers as hostages, with an additional 49 crew held hostage on land. Hostages continue to include seven Indian seafarers from the Asphalt Venture and four South Koreans from the Gemini, still held captive despite the payment of ransoms.
Prosecutions of suspected pirates are now succeeding in many countries. The Kenyan court has now found 11 suspects guilty of piracy; they face a potential 20 years in jail. The pirates had been detained by a French warship in 2009 when they had tried to escape from a suspected mothership, and handed over to the Kenyan authorities for prosecution.
There have been two recent examples of naval intervention to prevent pirate activity. On 15 April, a coordinated naval operation led to the rescue of a Yemeni dhow from pirate control. On 18 April, a Spanish warship rescued six Sri Lankan fishers and their fishing vessel 50 miles off the coast of Tanzania. The vessel had been captured in November 2011 and reported to have been used as a pirate mothership. Seven suspected pirates were released to the Somali coast as there is currently no agreement on the transfer of suspect pirates between the European Union and Tanzania.
There has been a welcome development for the crew of the Italian tanker Enrico Ievoli, hijacked off the coast of Oman on 27 December. Somali pirates are reported to have released the tanker and its 18 crew – seven Indians, six Italians and five Ukrainians
The latest incidents worldwide reported to the IMB include:
- Robbers boarded a container ship anchored in the Singapore Straits on 24 April and escaped with ship's stores.
- Pirates attempted to board a chemical tanker in the Red Sea on 22 April but abandoned their attack after the onboard security team fired warning shots.
- A fishing vessel and two skiffs were reported to have been hijacked 17 nautical miles off Ras Fartak, Yemen on 21 April.
- Eight robbers boarded a bulk carrier anchored at Samarinda, Indonesia on 20 April, tied up the duty crewmember, who managed to escape and raise the alarm, and escaped with ship's stores and property.
All attacks and suspicious sightings should be reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, Tel: +603 2031 0014 (24 hours), Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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