Report: Piracy Threat Continues off East and West Africa

Interdiction off Somalia (EUNAVFOR)

By The Maritime Executive 05-23-2018 06:41:00

On Wednesday, Oceans Beyond Piracy released its review for 2017, and the numbers show that pirate attacks remain a serious threat off the Horn of Africa, the coast of Latin America and in the Gulf of Guinea.

Off the coast of East Africa, the number of pirate attacks in 2017 was double the number the year before. “Pirate activity in 2017 clearly demonstrates that pirate groups retain their ability to organize and implement attacks against ships transiting the region,” said Maisie Pigeon, the report’s lead author.  

In addition, the high rate of piracy and maritime kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea continues unabated. "Kidnap-for-ransom continues to plague the region, which is a trend that has unfortunately continued from 2016,” said Pigeon. 100 seafarers were taken hostage, including 90 who were held for longer than one day and at least two who were killed. Fully 1,726 seafarers were affected by piracy in 97 incidents in the region, including 21 kidnappings and one hijacking for cargo theft. 

The continued impact of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea comes despite millions in additional funding for maritime security and naval patrols. The rate of law enforcement response to attacks rose by 27 percent, but authorities arrived to prevent a theft or kidnapping in only one case out of 97 for the year. 

The legal framework for deterring Gulf of Guinea piracy is also somewhat thin, OBP reported. The alleged pirates arrested for the MT Maximus attack in 2016 were charged in November, but Nigeria lacks a criminal law for piracy, and charges had to be limited to related offenses. OBP called for Nigeria's legal frameworks to be strengthened to support deterrence and enforcement. 

In Asia, the threat of piracy and maritime kidnapping receded in 2017 compared with the year before. 2016 saw 22 kidnapping cases, driven in large part by the activities of the Abu Sayyaf group off Sabah, Malaysia. An increased law enforcement presence helped drive down the incidence rate of piracy in the region by 23 percent, OBP said, and kidnappings fell to a total of just four incidents. 

Maritime crime is on the rise in Latin America and in the Caribbean as well, OBP warned - particularly at anchorages off poverty-stricken Venezuela, and particularly for anchored yachts.  OBP recorded 71 attacks this year, primarily robberies, compared with just 27 last year. Over 850 seafarers were exposed to risk from these illegal boardings, and two lost their lives.