The combined efforts of international navies and anti-piracy strategies adopted by governments of coastal countries have begun to yeild positive results as maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2017 dipped to their lowest annual number since 1995.
However, it is disconcerting that While the number of attacks on vessels dropped significantly in 2017, the Gulf of Guinea and the waters around Nigeria remain a threat to seafarers.
The Nigerian authorities have intervened in a number of incidents helping to prevent incidents from escalating," said Pottengal Mukundan, director of IMB.
In 2017, 180 incidents were reported to the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
This is the lowest number of incidents reported since 1995, when 188 reports were received, the IMB said on Wednesday.
In 2017, 136 vessels were boarded, while there were 22 attempted attacks, 16 vessels fired upon and six vessels hijacked.
Product and chemical tankers accounted for 42 incidents, 38 reports involved bulk carriers, 23 were container ships and 77 were others.
In 15 separate incidents, 91 crew members were taken hostage and 75 were kidnapped from their vessels in 13 other incidents. Three crew members were killed in 2017 and six injured.
Comparatively in 2016, a total of 191 incidents were reported, with 150 vessels boarded and 151 crew members taken hostage.
IMB highlighted that while overall piracy numbers have decreased, piracy activities in the Gulf of Guinea, off Somalia and around Southeast Asia remain a threat to maritime safety.
Nine incidents were recorded off Somalia in 2017, up from two in 2016. In November, a container ship was attacked by armed pirates approximately 280 nautical miles east of Mogadishu. The pirates, unable to board the vessel due to the ship's evasive maneuvering fired two RPG rockets, both of which missed, before retreating.
Six Somali pirates were subsequently detained by European Union Naval Force, transferred to the Seychelles and charged with "committing an act of piracy" where they face up to 30 years' imprisonment, if convicted.
"This dramatic incident, alongside our 2017 figures, demonstrates that Somali pirates retain the capability and intent to launch attacks against merchant vessels hundreds of miles from their coastline," said Mukundan.
Southeast Asia remains a hot spot for low-level incidents. Indonesia recorded 43 incidents in 2017, down from 49 in 2016. The IMB report notes that Indonesian Marine Police patrols continue to be effective in the country's 10 designated safe anchorages.
In the Philippines however, the number of reported incidents has more than doubled, from 10 in 2016 to 22 in 2017. According to the report, the majority of these incidents were low-level attacks on anchored vessels, mainly at the ports of Manila and Batangas. Vessels underway off the southern Philippines were boarded and crew kidnapped in the first quarter of 2017.
Launched in 1991, the IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre is a 24-hour manned center that provides the maritime industry, governments and response agencies with timely and transparent data on armed robbery incidents received directly from the master or owner of vessels.
M&P, Agency Report