According to the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) latest report ship hijackings have risen despite the global drop in sea piracy.
Attacks against small tankers in South East Asian waters went from 12 in 2013, up to 21 last year, while sea piracy fell to its lowest level in eight years. Four hundred and forty-two crew members were taken hostage in 2014, compared to 304 in the previous year.
Globally 245 incidents were recorded last year. The IMB states that this is a 44 percent drop since the peak of Somali piracy in 2011. The report states that only 11 attacks of the worldwide number were committed by Somali pirates.
“The global increase in hijackings is due to a rise in attacks against coastal tankers in South East Asia,” said Pottengal Mukundan, director of IMB whose Piracy Reporting Centre has monitored world piracy since 1991. “Gangs of armed thieves have attacked small tankers in the region for their cargoes, many looking specifically for marine diesel and gas oil to steal and then sell.”
In a statement, IMB urges shipmasters to be cautious and to follow the industry’s Best Management Practices. It cites the death of one crew member, who was shot on a bitumen tanker in December 2014 as an example of how hijackings have the capacity to become increasing violent.
In West Africa oil thievery is particularly prevalent, with 41 incidents reported in 2014. Five vessels were hijacked; three tankers, one supply and a fishing vessel. In Nigerian 18 attacks were noted, with 14 tankers and vessels associated with the industry involved.
Bangladesh reported a rise in incidents, with 21 recorded in 2014, in comparison to 12 in the previous year. Three moving vessels and 17 anchored ones were boarded with one attempted attack. According to the IMB a large proportion of these were low level thefts, although one report stated that three crew were taken hostage and two injured in separate incidents.