Pirates off Somalia quiet but Gulf of Guinea a hotspot in first half of 2015


Piracy off the Somali coast has all but disappeared while pirates remain active in the Gulf of Guinea and Southeast Asia, according to a maritime intelligence provider.

Dryad Maritime released its analysis of worldwide reported incidents of piracy and crime against mariners from 1 April to 30 June 2015, which show that Southeast Asia continues to dominate maritime crime incidents globally, with 120 reports of piracy and maritime crime instances there since 1 January 2015, an increase of 22% compared to the first six months of 2014. Of these reported incidents, 12 were vessel hijackings – an increase of three compared to the same period last year.

Dryad noted that there have been no incidents of piracy across the high risk area (HRA) in the Indian Ocean in Q2 of 2015. The last confirmed vessel to be fired upon by suspected Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean HRA was in February 2014. “This sudden reduction in suspicious incident reports coincides with the intervention of the Saudi led coalition in Yemen. The only confirmed reports of maritime crime were three cases of robbery; two from vessels alongside at Kandla, India and one in Mombasa, Kenya. These incidents were carried out by opportunistic local criminals and have no links to Somali piracy,” according to Dryad’s report.

The civil war in Yemen is a risk to vessels, with ships attempting to dock at Aden having been fired upon with rockets and shells and the refinery at Aden was hit and reported to be burning out of control. Dryad notes that during Q2, three vessels were harassed, with two being fired upon by Iranian military vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. One vessel, MV Maersk Tigris, was arrested and forced to sail to Bandar Abbas where she was anchored under Iranian control for nine days before being released.

The Southwest Monsoon is expected to keep piracy activity to a minimum off the Horn of Africa until mid-September. Earlier this week Major General Martin Smith, commander of the European Union’s (EU’s) Operation Atalanta counter-piracy mission in the region, said that no pirate attacks occurred in the area in the first half of this but warned that the threat of piracy very much still exists.
“We’ve suppressed it by military means, applying best practices in the commercial shipping sector and using private security firms,” he said. Atalanta currently has two warships and a single maritime patrol aircraft on station. More assets (seven warships and three maritime patrol aircraft) were deployed before the monsoon season began.

The Gulf of Guinea remains a piracy hotspot, with Dryad noting that in April and May, at least 20 mariners were taken from five vessels off the shores of Rivers and Akwa Ibom States in Nigeria. “Kidnapping of crew for ransom still remains the most significant threat to seafarers in the region. Given the historical frequency of attacks off Bayelsa State, Nigeria, it is somewhat surprising that there has been just one attack offshore there this year, with none occurring during this last quarter.”

Overall, there have been 16 confirmed incidents reported during the second quarter of 2015 compared with 18 during the first quarter, and 15 during the same period last year, Dryad said.

In the Mediterranean, the extremely unstable political and military situation within Libya continues, affecting adjacent countries as well as normal shipping and trading operations, as is the continuing humanitarian crisis of Mediterranean migration emanating from Libya and other countries.

Further attacks on merchant ships close to the Libyan coast have occurred following on from the attack on MT Araevo on 4 January. MV Tuna 1 and MT Anwar Afriqya were both attacked in May, in waters off Derna and Sirte, respectively. More recently, an unconfirmed report suggests that a probable fishing vessel was attacked off Benghazi in June, Dryad noted.
“On migration, the recent UN report stating that over 137,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean in the first 6 months of the year compared to just 75,000 in the same period last year has further highlighted the scale of the humanitarian crisis. The European Unions’ efforts to deal with the problem have not yet been fully approved by the United Nations. However, additional Coastguard and Naval vessels are operating in the area alongside charities, such as Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), in an attempt to prevent the loss of life seen earlier in the year. Despite these efforts, commercial vessels are still being engaged in rescue operations involving large numbers of migrants. There are also threats to navigation in the transit areas as traffickers act covertly with unlit boats at night,” Dryad said.
“Our latest figures for piracy and maritime crime highlight the uncertain, chaotic and, sometimes, dangerous nature of global maritime operations. The continued containment of the Somali piracy threat is both welcome and a testament to the measures taken to tackle it, but other areas give us more cause for concern,” said Ian Millen, Chief Operating Officer, Dryad Maritime.
“The wars in Yemen and Libya and the security integrity of important arteries like Suez, bring their own complexities to maritime operations. From restrictions on maritime trade in Libya and Yemen, terrorism concerns in the Suez Canal zone and the pressures of becoming engaged in mass migration rescue operations, mariners, and those who have a duty of care to them have a plenty to think about. As if that wasn’t enough, we’ve seen vessels attacked by military and rebel forces off Libyan ports and others fired upon and detained in the Arabian Gulf.”