Historic pirates, like Blackbeard may be what come to mind when piracy is mentioned, but pirates are real and continue to be a modern menace to shipping, the maritime industry as a whole, and the individuals who work on the sea. Pirates today are typically heavily armed, approach and attack ships and their crews, board those ships, and then either steal cargo or commandeer the ship to take control of it with the ultimate purpose of either stealing the cargo or getting ransom money. According to a recent report from the International Maritime Bureau, this kind of piracy is on the rise already in 2017.
IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has a Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) that was established in 1992 for the purpose of providing shipmasters with a free, 24-hour service that would allow them to report incidents of piracy or armed robbery. The IMB PRC is a non-governmental organization based in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia with the goal or raising awareness of piracy and other criminal acts at sea. The PRC takes reports from ships and uses it to contact the relevant local law enforcement agency. This allows ships to get help quicker, but also allows the PRC to maintain records of piracy acts around the world.
Piracy up in First Quarter of the Year
The first quarterly report from the PRC in 2017 indicated that acts of piracy are on the increase this year. The report found that 43 ships were attacked in the first part of the year and that 58 crew members were captured. This is an increase compared to the same quarter in 2016. Some of the most frequent incidents were in the waters of Nigeria, the southern Philippines, and Indonesia. Two ships were hijacked off the coast of Somalia along with four attempts, an area that had not seen piracy since 2012. In total, pirates managed to board 33 ships around the world in just the first three months of the year.
The Gulf of Guinea, which includes waters off the coast of Nigeria, is a particular area of concern for modern piracy. In the first quarter of the year, 27 crew members were kidnapped and more than half of those kidnappings occurred in the Gulf of Guinea. Ships attacked in these waters included general cargo ships, bulk carriers, and tankers. Attacks were also significantly up in the southern Philippines as compared to the same time last year. In one incident, five crew members were kidnapped by the pirates for ransom money and two were killed.
Department of Defense Warns of Piracy off Somalia
Somalia was a major area of concern for piracy several years ago, but until the first months of 2017, had not seen any piracy incidents since 2012. The Pentagon is now warning that Somalia is again a dangerous place to travel by ship. In one recent incident a small tanker was attached and 28 crew members were taken hostage. The Department of Defense has not yet stated that it will get the U.S. Navy involved, but did urge shipping companies to take precautions and indicated that an international effort might be needed once again to curb piracy in the region.
Piracy is a modern problem, troubling now for being on the rise again. The actions of pirates not only cost shipping companies money in stolen cargo, damage to ships, and delayed transport, these international criminals also harm crews. They sometimes kill crew members and anyone working on ships that pass through these arears is at risk of real physical harm because of pirates.