A new frontier in the war against maritime piracy is emerging with attacks in West Africa, the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) warned.
The IMB said 11 reports were received in Nigeria and Benin during the first quarter of 2012, equivalent to the whole of 2011. In all, the bureau recorded 102 incidents of piracy and armed robbery in the first quarter of 2012.
Of the total, 11 vessels were reported hijacked, with 212 crew members taken hostage and four crew killed. A further 45 vessels were boarded, with 32 attempted attacks and 14 vessels fired on - the latter all attributed to either Somali or Nigerian pirates.
"Nigerian piracy is increasing in incidence and extending in range," said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB Piracy Reporting Center, which has been monitoring piracy worldwide since 1991. "At least six of the 11 reported incidents in Nigeria occurred at distances greater than 70 nautical miles from the coast, which suggests that fishing vessels are being used as motherships to attack shipping further afield.
“While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia, and hijacked vessels are under control of the pirates for days rather than months, the level of violence against crew is dangerously high."
Somalia continues to dominate figures, with 43 attacks, including the hijacking of nine vessels and 144 crew. Four dhows and a fishing vessel, softer targets that make for ideal motherships, were among the highjacked vessels, IMB said. Somali pirates were also responsible for hijacking a Panamax bulk carrier at the end of March.
“While the number of 2012 incidents and hijackings are less than reports for the same period in 2011 (97 incidents, 16 hijackings), it is unlikely that the threat of Somali piracy will diminish in the short to medium term unless further actions are taken,” the bureau said. “The report attributes the reduction in overall attacks to the disruptive actions and pre-emptive strikes by the navies in the region, which disrupted numerous pirate action groups, emphasizing the importance of the navies in both deterring and combating Somali piracy.”
The report also noted increased attacks in Indonesia.
“There has been a noticeable increase in the number of armed robbery attacks in the Indonesian archipelago, up from five in the first quarter of 2011 to 18 in 2012,” the IMB report said. “All types of vessels in Indonesia have been targeted.”