Kidnaps up, deaths and injuries down, in quieter year for piracy

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and International Maritime Bureau (IMB) have published their annual piracy report for 2016.

In 2016 there were 191 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships, down from 246 reported incidents in 2015. There were 150 incidences of vessels being boarded, seven hijackings, 22 attempted attacks and 12 vessels fired upon. There was in increase in the number of times shots were fired, with guns featuring in 48 reports in 2016, up from 33 in 2015. The reported use of knives fell to 44 from 97, and was a distinct fall from the average over the previous four years. For the first time since before 2012, no crew were killed or are missing. Of the 236 “acts of violence” only 13 consisted of actual assault or injury.

Last year 151 hostages were taken, and 62 people were kidnapped for ransom in 15 separate incidents. That is a 200% increase over 2015.

Looking at the trend for the locations of actual and attempted attacks, in south-east Asia Indonesia performed remarkably well in 2016, with the number of incidents falling to 49 from 108 in 2015 and triple-digit incidents in 2014 and 2013. By contrast, the Philippines saw 11 attacks in 2015 and 10 in 2016, compared with only three in 2012 and the same number in 2013.

In east Asia (China, South China Sea, Vietnam) the total numbers have remained relatively constant over the past five years, although Vietnam has seen a decline and China has seen an increase.

In South America the trend appears to be on the increase – 27 events last year, compared with seven the year before and four in 2014. There were 11 incidents in Peru (zero the previous two years). Ten incidents were reported at Callao port in Peru alone.

In Africa the story is now all about Nigeria – the 36 incidents there outnumbered 26 incidents everywhere else. Nigeria also saw a significant increase from the 14 incidents in 2015, although 2012 had seen 27 attacks, and 2013 had seen 31. Somalia (49 incidents in 2012) has become a piracy non-event, with only one incident in the past two years. The Red Sea (also Somali pirates) had 13 incidents in 2012, but none in the past two years. Togo too has also reduced the number of incidents – 15 in 2012, seven in 2013, two in 2014 and only one in the past two years.

Ships are more likely to be at anchor when they are attacked than steaming. Of 157 actual attacks, 104 took place when the vessel was anchored, 23 when it was berthed and 30 when it was steaming. Of the anchored attacks, Indonesia saw the most incidents (37), while the attacks on the open sea were most prevalent off the Nigerian coast (14 out of 30). It should be pointed out that 15 of the 22 failed attacks on the open sea were also off the Nigerian coast, so the country does a relatively better job of foiling such attacks.

The number of attacks on container vessels fell dramatically last year, down to 10 from 30 the year before. Bulk carrier attacks declined from 86 to 52, but the five-year trend as a percentage of total attacks is on the rise. There were 56 attacks on chemical/product tankers (down six year on year), 13 on crude oil tankers (down seven year on year) and 10 on LPG tankers (up six year on year).