Piracy: Soaring and more violent
A total of 406 incidents of piracy and armed robbery were reported in the 2009 to the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center, 39 percent more than the prior year. More than half involved pirates from Somalia.
The last time piracy figures crossed 400 incidents was in 2003. 2009 is also the third consecutive year the number of reported incidents have increased with 239 in 2006, 263 in 2007, and 293 in 2008.
The report states that worldwide in 2009, 153 vessels were boarded, 49 vessels were hijacked, and that there were 84 attempted attacks and 120 vessels fired upon — compared to 46 ships fired upon in 2008.
“The level of violence towards the crew has increased along with the number of crew injuries,” the center said. A total of 1,052 crew were taken hostage, 68 were injured and eight killed.
Total incidents attributed to the Somali pirates in 2009 stands at 217 with 47 vessels hijacked and 867 crewmembers taken hostage. The prior year 111 vessels were targeted by Somali pirates resulting in 42 hijackings.
“Whilst the number of 2009 incidents has almost doubled, the number of successful hijackings is proportionately less. This can be directly attributed to the increased presence and coordination of the international navies along with heightened awareness and robust action by the masters in transiting these waters,” the bureau said.
Capt. Pottengal Mukundan, the bureau's director, said, 'international navies play a critical role in the prevention of piracy in Somalia and it is vital that they remain.'
2009 has however seen a significant shift in the area of attacks off Somalia. While 2008 attacks were predominantly focused in the Gulf of Aden, 2009 has witnessed more vessels also being targeted along the East Coast of Somalia. Since October increased activity has been observed in the Indian Ocean with 33 incidents reported, including 13 hijackings.
IMB also said 28 incidents were reported for Nigeria in 2009. Of these 21 vessels were boarded, three vessels were fired upon, one vessel was hijacked and three masters reported an attempted attack on their vessel. One crew was reported killed as the robbers tried to escape after looting the vessel.
Vessels attacked include general cargo, bulk carriers, reefers, and all types of tankers. Most incidents related to the oil industry and fishing vessels go unreported, the bureau said, adding that information from external sources would suggest at least a further 30 unreported attacks occurred in Nigeria in 2009.
'The Nigerian attacks are however much more violent in nature than Somalia, localized but with the capacity to attack vessels and installations further from the coast,' Mukundan said. 'The incidence of violent attacks against ships has also spilled over into neighboring states.'