By Daniel Canty
The International Maritime Bureau confirms fewer attacks in 2007, but says hotspots remain perilous.
The number of reported piracy attacks world-wide in the first three months of 2007 is recorded at 41 incidents compared with 61 for the corresponding period in 2006, according to the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
The attacks are listed in the IMB's Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships report for the first quarter of 2007. The report states that ships were boarded in 29 instances and heavily armed attackers hijacked two ships. There were 38 crew taken hostage with 17 crew kidnapped. Pirates operate in large groups attacking the vessel from different directions simultaneously.
Nigeria has seen a doubling of the number of attacks with six incidents reported compared to three in the first quarter of 2006. These have included a number of violent attacks against vessels and crew working in offshore oil installations where crew have been assaulted and abducted. There have also been cases when non-oil related vessels have also been targeted in the Niger Delta region. A total of 40 crew members have been taken hostage or kidnapped in Nigeria alone.
"We welcome the continued reduction in the number of reported attacks. There are however areas that continue to give cause for concern, notably Nigeria and Somalia. In addition, it is imperative that in those areas where the number of attacks has reduced that governments continue to devote sufficient resources to tackling the problem," said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB.
"Equally crucial is that all incidents are reported to the IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre, as it remains the only 24 hour point for reporting incidents worldwide. It is only when attacks are reported that it is possible to trigger effective law enforcement responses from the coastal states," he added.
The situation in Somalia would also appear to have improved with one vessel reportedly hijacked and only one other incident in the first quarter of 2007. The civil war in Somalia makes it extremely difficult for affected parties to seek prompt and adequate assistance from authorities onshore. IMB advises vessels to stay at least 75 nautical miles from the Somali coastline.
Indonesia recorded nine incidents. Although it continues to top the table, Indonesia should be applauded for the pro-active efforts it has taken to tackle the problem, according to the IMB. This is illustrated by the fact that there were 19 reported attacks for the corresponding period of 2006. Two incidents were recorded in the Malacca Straits - an excellent example of how co-operation between authorities can tackle and continue to suppress the attacks. There has also been a welcome reduction in Bangladesh with only two reported incidents, compared to nine in the last quarter of 2006.
The Report identifies the ports and anchorages that are more prone to attacks. Balongan in Indonesia, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Lagos in Nigeria recorded four, three and four incidents respectively.
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) is the only centre of its kind in the world, which offers Ships' Masters the facility to report pirate attacks at any time, wherever they are in the world, to a single point of contact.