Piracy at sea hits six-year low worldwide, increases off West Africa


Global maritime piracy incident rates reached a six-year low in 2013, with 264 attacks recorded worldwide, a 40 per cent drop since piracy levels peaked in 2011.

This is according to figures released yesterday by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), with the reduction primarily attributed to a focused drive to reduce pirate activity off the coast of Somalia. The IMB Piracy Reporting Center (PRC) has monitored world piracy since 1991.

“The single biggest reason for the drop in piracy worldwide is the decrease in Somali piracy off the coast of East Africa,” said Pottengal Mukundan, director of IMB in a statement.

The bureau says Somali pirates have been deterred by a combination of factors, including intervention from international navies, the hardening of vessels, the use of private armed security teams, and the stabilising influence of Somalia’s central government.

Just 15 incidents were reported off Somalia in 2013, down from 75 in 2012 and 237 in 2011.

“It is imperative to continue combined international efforts to tackle Somali piracy. Any complacency at this stage could re-kindle pirate activity,” warned Mukundan.

IMB’s annual global piracy report shows that in 2013, a total of 12 vessels were hijacked, 202 were boarded, 22 were fired upon and a further 28 reported attempted attacks.

More than 300 people were taken hostage at sea and 21 were injured, nearly all with guns or knives. Nigerian pirates were notably violent, killing one crewmember, and kidnapping 36 people to hold onshore for ransom.

The 15 incidents attributed to Somali pirates include two hijacked vessels, both of which were released within a day as a result of naval action. A further eight vessels were fired upon. These figures are the lowest since 2006, when 10 Somali attacks were recorded.

Nigerian pirate activity continues its rise

West African piracy made up 19 per cent of attacks worldwide last year. Nigerian pirates and armed robbers accounted for 31 of the region’s 51 attacks, taking 49 people hostage and kidnapping 36, more than in any year since 2008. Nigerian pirates ventured far into waters off Gabon, Ivory Coast and Togo, where they were linked with at least five of the region’s seven reported vessel hijackings. Off the coast of Nigeria itself, two ships were hijacked, 13 were boarded and 13 fired upon.

The dramatic rise in incidents off the western coast of Africa has driven up insurance costs for shipping companies active in the region, as insurers increasingly classify the area ‘high risk’.