Last year only 15 incidents of piracy off the Somali coast were reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), down from 75 in the previous year.
“The single biggest reason for the drop in worldwide piracy is the decrease in Somali piracy off the coast of East Africa,” said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, IMB Director, whose Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) has monitored world piracy since 1991.
Piracy last year reached its lowest level internationally with 264 attacks recorded worldwide. This represents a 40% drop since Somali piracy peaked in 2011.
A combination of factors, including the key role of international navies, hardening of vessels, use of private armed security teams and the stabilising influence of the central Somali government have all contributed to the drop in pirate attacks and incidents, which numbered 237 in 2011 off the Horn of Africa.
Mukundan warned international efforts to combat Somali piracy had to continue. “Any complacency at this stage could rekindle pirate activity.”
The IMB annual piracy report shows more than 300 people were taken hostage worldwide at sea last year and 21 injured, nearly all by guns or knives.
Twelve vessels were hijacked, 22 fired on and a further 28 attempted attacks were reported to the Piracy Reporting Centre.
The 15 incidents attributed to Somali pirates last year include two hijacked vessels, both of which were released within a day as a result of naval actions. A further eight vessels were fired upon. These figures are the lowest since 2006 when 10 attacks were recorded off the Somali coast.
On the other side of the continent, West African piracy made up 19% of attacks worldwide. Identified Nigerian pirates 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.
In Malaysian waters two product tankers were hijacked with 27 crew taken hostage as well as theft of ships’ property and cargo.
In Indonesian anchorages and waters, IMB reported a high number of “low-level opportunistic thefts, not to be compared with the more serious incidents off Africa”.
These accounted for more than 50% of all vessels boarded in 2013 and armed robbery increased for a fourth consecutive year. Over a third of Indonesia’s incidents were reported in the last quarter of 2013. The IMB PRC has been working closely with the Indonesian Marine Police who have increased maritime patrols and designated safe anchorage areas for vessels to use in certain higher risk ports.
Attacks in India and Bangladesh are also described as “low-level and opportunistic”. Incidents off India have increased year on year since 2010 reaching 14 in 2013. Active patrolling by the Bangladesh Coast Guard has kept the number of incidents off Chittagong in Bangladesh at around 12 for the last few years.