Wednesday, August 29, 2012
By Philip Mwakio
The number of pirate attacks has fallen sharply in the first half of this year, led by a drop in Somali piracy.
But the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) global piracy report maintains that the drop in piracy was offset by an increase of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea off West Africa.
Overall, 177 incidents were reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) in the first six months of this year, compared to 266 incidents for the corresponding period last year.
The report showed that 20 vessels were hijacked worldwide, with a total number of 334 crew-members taken hostage. There were a further 80 vessels boarded, 25 vessels fired upon and 52 reported attempted attacks. At least four crew-members were killed.
The Somalia link
The report attributed the overall decrease in the numbers primarily to the decline in the incidents of Somali piracy activity, dropping from 163 in the first six months of last year to 69 this year. Somali pirates also hijacked fewer vessels, down from 21 to 13. Nonetheless, Somali piracy continues to remain a serious threat.
“Somali pirate attacks cover a vast area, from the Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Gulf of Oman to the Arabian Sea and Somali Basin, threatening all shipping routes in the north west Indian Ocean,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, which has been monitoring world piracy since 1991.
The report cited the pre-emptive and disruptive counter piracy tactics employed by the international navies as playing a big role in the decline in Somali piracy. This includes the disruption of mother vessels and Pirate Action Groups.
“The naval actions play an essential role in frustrating the pirates. There is no alternative to their continued presence,” said Mr Mukundan.
The effective deployment of Best Management Practices, ship hardening and, in particular, the increased use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel, also contributed to the falling numbers.
Meanwhile, the decline in Somali piracy has been offset by an increase of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, where 32 incidents, including five hijackings, were reported this year, versus 25 last year.
The report added that in Nigeria alone, there were 17 reports, compared to six last year. Togo reported five incidents – including a hijacking – compared to none during the same time last year.