Attacks against small tankers off Southeast Asia’s coasts caused a rise in global ship hijackings, up to 21 in 2014 from 12 in 2013, despite piracy at sea falling to its lowest level in eight years, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has revealed. Pirates took 442 crewmembers hostage, compared with 304 in 2013.
IMB’s annual piracy report shows 245 incidents were recorded worldwide in 2014 – a 44% drop since Somali piracy peaked in 2011. Somali pirates were responsible for 11 attacks, all of which were thwarted. However, IMB warns shipmasters to follow the industry’s Best Management Practices, as the threat of Somali piracy has not been eliminated.
Worldwide, 21 vessels were hijacked last year, 183 were boarded, and 13 fired upon. Pirates killed four crewmembers, injured 13 and kidnapped nine from their vessels.
“The global increase in hijackings is due to a rise in attacks against coastal tankers in Southeast 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.”
Citing the death of one crewmember shot on his bitumen tanker in December, the IMB report highlights the possibility of the hijackings becoming increasingly violent. Most of the 124 attacks in the region were aimed at low-level theft from vessels using guns and long knives.
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