A Cameroonian boarding team conducts anti-piracy training aboard the Nigerian navy ship NNS Thunder (F-90) during Exercise Obangame Express 2013 (OE-13) in the Gulf of Guinea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Howard)

Piracy Incidents, Number of Crew Members Held Hostage Have Risen This Year

A total of 156 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported to the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) in the first nine months of 2018 compared to 121 for the same period in 2017.

The 2018 figure is broken down as 107 vessels boarded, 32 attempted attacks, 13 vessels fired upon and four vessels hijacked—although no vessels were reported as hijacked in the third quarter of this year. This is first time since 1994 when no vessel hijackings have been reported in two consecutive quarters.

Nevertheless, incidents persist, with the number of crew members held hostage increasing in comparison to the same period in 2017—from 80 incidents to 112 by the third quarter of 2018.

Statistically, the Gulf of Guinea accounts for 57 of the 156 reported incidents. While most of these incidents have been reported in and around Nigeria (41), the Nigerian Navy has actively responded and dispatched patrol boats when incidents have been reported promptly. There has also been a noticeable increase in the number of vessels boarded at the Takoradi anchorage in Ghana.

Thirty-seven of the 39 crew kidnappings for ransom globally have occurred in the Gulf of Guinea region, in seven separate incidents. A total of 29 crew members were kidnapped in four separate incidents off Nigeria—including a 12-crew kidnapping from a bulk carrier off Bonny Island, Nigeria, in September.

In other areas of the world, incidents of piracy and armed robbery are less frequent. No new incidents have been reported off the coast of Somalia in the third quarter of this year, while two fishermen were reported kidnapped off Semporna, Malaysia, in September.

Incidents in the remaining regions, including some Latin America countries, border on low-level opportunistic theft. Nevertheless, the IMB continues to encourage all masters and crew members to be aware of these risks and report all incidents to the 24-hour manned PRC.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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