The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC) recorded 78 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the first half of 2019, compared with 107 incidents for the same period of 2018. Overall, 57 vessels were boarded successfully, representing 73% of all attacks.
Pirates killed one person, took 38 crew members hostage, and kidnapped a further 37 for ransom.
The seas around West Africa remain the world’s most dangerous for piracy, the IMB report, released July 8, says. The vast majority of seafarers taken hostage onboard or kidnapped for ransom worldwide so far this year, were captured in the Gulf of Guinea – off the coasts of Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon.
In total, 73% of all kidnappings at sea, and 92% of hostage-takings, took place in the Gulf of Guinea. Armed pirates in these high-risk waters kidnapped 27 crew members in the first half of 2019, and 25 in the same period in 2018. Two chemical tankers were hijacked, as well as a tug that was then used in another attack. Of the nine vessels fired upon worldwide, eight were off the coast of Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer. These attacks took place on average 65 nautical miles off the coast – meaning they are classified as acts of piracy.
But there are some encouraging signs of improvement. IMB PRC reports “a welcome and marked decrease” in attacks in the Gulf of Guinea for the second quarter of 2019, commending the Nigerian navy for actively responding to reported incidents by dispatching patrol boats. While recognizing that many attacks go unreported, IMB recorded 21 incidents around Nigeria so far in 2019, down from 31 in the same period of 2018.
Naval vessels from Equatorial Guinea and Spain also intervened in May 2019 when a Nigerian tug was hijacked 41 nautical miles off Luba, Equatorial Guinea. Soon after, the pirates used the tug to launch an attack on a Maltese heavy load carrier. The crew retreated into the ship’s citadel, a safe room for protection against attackers. When the navies responded, the pirates left the vessel and the crew were freed.
Meanwhile, in Malaysia, ten crew were kidnapped from two fishing boats off eastern Sabah in June. Of these, nine crew are reported to have been released.
Around Indonesia, ongoing information-sharing cooperation between the Indonesian Marine Police and the IMB PRC continues to show positive results. The 11 incidents reported in Indonesian waters remains the lowest Q2 figure since 2009 when three incidents were reported.
In South America, a vessel was fired upon in the Guayas River after departing from Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second largest city. This is the first time an incident involving the firing of weapons has been reported to the IMB PRC in Ecuador.
Elsewhere in the region, incidents of violent armed theft against ships at anchor have been reported in Callao in Peru, Jose Terminal in Venezuela and Macapa in Brazil. On May 2019, armed robbers boarded a yacht in San Ignacio de Tupile, Panama, shooting and killing a family member and injuring another.