Pirates and armed robbers attacked 43 ships and captured 58 seafarers in the first quarter of this year, slightly more than the corresponding period last year, according to the latest ICC International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) piracy report.
The IMB said there are two major areas of concern:
Gulf of Guinea kidnappings:
Of the 27 seafarers kidnapped worldwide for ransom between January and March this year, 63 per cent were in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria is the main kidnap hotspot, with 17 crew taken in three separate incidents, up from 14 in the corresponding period last year. All three vessels, a general cargo ship, a tanker and a bulk carrier, were attacked while underway 30-60 miles off the Bayelsa coast. Three more ships were fired upon at up to 110 miles from land, and many other attacks are unreported.
Growing violence around the southern Philippines:
Nine ships reported attacks in the first quarter of 2017 in the southern Philippines compared with just two in the corresponding period last year. These include an armed attack on a general cargo vessel in which two crew were killed and five kidnapped for ransom. Kidnappers captured five more people in attacks on a fishing trawler and a tug.
According to the IMB, militant activity may be behind the escalating violence in waters around the southern Philippines. Armed groups use speedboats to target seafarers and fishermen in slow-moving, low vessels.
Areas such as the Sulu Sea and Sibutu Passage are particularly risky. The IMB recommends that ships avoid these waters by transiting west of Kalimantan, if possible.