According to the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre “only one incident of an actual attack” was reported from the Gulf of Guinea for the third quarter of this year with the disclaimer that “the real number is believed to be considerably higher”.
On 19 October a Comoros flagged refrigerated cargo vessel was attacked near Nigeria’s oil hub, Port Harcourt, and four crewmembers (two Lithuanian and two Ukrainian) were kidnapped by Nigerian pirates after robbing the vessel. 19 sailors were on board.
Dryad Maritime noted that this was the first incident reported at sea off the Niger Delta in five months and took place 100 nautical miles further west than the spate of kidnappings which took place earlier this year. It comes at a time when the Nigerian Navy is conducting increased patrols of the approaches to the Bonny River, and these patrols may have forced this criminal gang to look into operating in this wider area of West Africa. This area has a recent history of maritime attacks with six reported cases of attacks on vessels, where 13 crewmembers were abducted for the purpose of ransom, in 2014 alone.
The IMB report for the first nine months of 2015 states 190 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships have been “officially counted” around the world this year.
“The greatest number is in Indonesia, which tallied 86 mainly low-level incidents, followed by Vietnam with 19 low-level reports.
“No incidents have been noted off Somalia or in the Gulf of Aden this year, previously a piracy hotspot.
“This positive development reflects the combined efforts of navies in the region along with greater compliance with the Best Management practices guidelines against Somali piracy, the employment of private security contractors and a stabilising government. Suspected Somali pirates continue to hold 29 crew members for ransom,” the report states adding vessels are “urged to maintain vigilance, noting the ‘increasingly fragile’ situation ashore in Somalia with the threat of piracy not eliminated”.
However Reuters reported that Somali pirates hijacked an Iranian fishing vessel with 15 crewmembers on Sunday in waters off the northern Somali city of Eyl. John Steed, East Africa region manager for the Oceans Beyond Piracy group, confirmed the hijacking and said the vessel was called Muhammidi.
Two other Iranian fishing ships were captured by suspected pirates in March, Reuters reports. The 16 crew from one boat managed to raise anchor and escape in August, but the other ship and 26 crew remain in captivity. Steed said there were three other unsuccessful sea attacks by Somali pirates in the past week, including one on Monday night.
“This indicates that the level of illegal fishing is bringing the threat of return of Somali piracy ever closer,” added Kenya-based Steed. Somali officials say the decline in piracy in recent years has emboldened foreign-flagged illegal fishing vessels to plunder Somalia’s fish stocks closer to shore, bringing them within reach of pirate gangs.
According to the IMB, all told in 2015 to date 154 vessels have been boarded, there have been 21 attempted attacks and 15 vessels have been hijacked. Two hundred and twenty-six crew members were taken hostage, 14 assaulted, 13 injured, 10 kidnapped and one killed.
Despite an overall global reduction in serious piracy attacks this year, the IMB cautions against complacency.