Pirate attacks around the world fell by over a third in the first quarter versus the same period last year although Somali gangs who accounted for over half the incidents were striking deeper offshore, a watchdog says.
Somali pirates have already increased their attacks in recent months, making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing ships, including tankers and dry bulkers, in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
The London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said Somali pirates accounted for 35 out of a total of 67 global incidents in the first quarter. That compared with 102 incidents in the same period last year, 61 of which were by Somali gangs.
“This marked reduction can be attributed to the continued presence and success of the navies in the Gulf of Aden along with the robust anti-piracy measures adopted by the merchant navy fleet,” the IMB said in a report published on Wednesday.
Foreign navies have boosted activities off the Gulf of Aden since 2009 and have operated convoys, as well as setting up a transit corridor across dangerous waters. But their forces have been stretched over the vast area, leaving ships vulnerable.
IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said there had been a number of examples where navies in the Indian Ocean had destroyed pirate boats and confiscated equipment.
“Such positive and robust action by the navies against mother ships, pirate skiffs and pirate action groups has been vital to keeping the attacks under control and must be sustained,” he said.
The use of mother ships has enabled Somali pirates to strike as far as the Mozambique Channel and off India’s coast in recent months launching smaller boats known as skiffs against ships.
“Most of the attacks involve the use of weapons, which is a cause of great concern to the merchant navy fleet as it poses a serious threat not only to the injury and death of seafarers but also to the ship, cargo and environment,” the IMB said.
The IMB added that better weather had made conditions over the next two to three months “more conducive for pirate, small boat activities”.
“Attacks have been reported during the hours of darkness, particularly on nights with a full moon,” it said.
Turning to Nigeria, the IMB said two pirate incidents were reported in the first quarter versus seven in the same period last year.
“Violence towards crews still remains high in these waters. In one of the incidents, two crew members had to be taken ashore for medical treatment after a piratical attack,” it said.
Pic: Navy at sea