Pirate attacks already exceed 2008 total
Incidents of global piracy attacks on commercial vessels through the first nine months of the year have already surpassed the total recorded in 2008 and incidents in which guns are used have tripled year over year, according to the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau.
A total of 306 attacks were reported to the IMB during the first three quarters compared to 293 for all of 2008. The increase is directly attributed to pirate activity off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. Hot spots range to the southern region of the Red Sea, the Bab al Mandab Straits and the East Coast of Oman.
Attacks decreased to 63 in the third quarter from 103 in the first quarter and 140 in the second quarter, due to the monsoon season in the Indian Ocean that makes it dangerous for small pirate skiffs to operate.
IMB statistics reveal that 114 vessels were boarded, 34 were hijacked and 88 vessels fired upon in the nine-month period. A total of 661 crewmembers were taken hostage, 12 kidnapped, six killed and eight reported missing.
Of those totals, Somali pirates accounted for 32 hijackings and 533 hostages. As of Sept. 30, four vessels with more than 80 hostages were still negotiating with their captors.
The IMB said Nigeria remains another area of great concern. Only 20 attacks were officially reported to the IMB so far this year, but the organization believes that at least half of all attacks on vessels, mostly related to the oil industry, go unreported.
Chittagong port in Bangladesh has also experienced an increase in piracy, with 12 reported attacks so far — 10 of them successful — compared to nine for the same period in 2008, when all the vessels were successfully boarded and looted, the IMB said.
The 10 incidents in the South China Sea during the first three quarters is the highest number there than any corresponding period during the past five years. All the attacks resulted in successful boarding and in some cases the bridge of the vessel was left unmanned for some time, according to the IMB's Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Meanwhile, Norwegian maritime services company Jeppesen Marine said it has teamed with Bergen Risk to provide a daily information service to subscribers that displays recent pirate activity on digital navigational charts used for route planning.
The piracy updates would supplement Jeppesen digital charts that display weather and sea state forecasts. The downloadable piracy information is compiled by Bergen Risk, a Scandinavian firm that provides maritime and security risk assessments for the shipping, oil and gas and insurance industries.
High-risk zones and naval escorts in places such as the Gulf of Aden or Niger Delta are also displayed on the charts. Additional information such as wave height can also be superimposed on the chart to help captains plan passage as pirate speedboats are ineffective in wave heights above 1.5 meters.
To read more about piracy off the coast of Somalia, the rise of specialized insurance premiums and the proliferation of private security contractors offering vessel protection services, see American Shipper's October cover story (pages 30-35). ' Eric Kulisch