According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), 177 incidents were reported to its Piracy Reporting Centre in the first six months of 2012, compared with 266 incidents for the same period in 2011.Somali piracy activity dropped from 163 incidents in the first six months of 2011 to 69 in 2012, according to IMB figures. Somali pirates also hijacked fewer vessels, down from 21 to 13.
“Somali pirate attacks cover a vast area, from the Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Gulf of Oman to the Arabian Sea and Somali Basin, threatening all shipping routes in the north-west Indian Ocean,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the IMB, which has been monitoring world piracy since 1991.
He said the evident decline in Somali piracy could be, in part, attributed to the “pre-emptive and disruptive counter piracy tactics” employed by international navies.
“Naval actions play an essential role in frustrating the pirates. There is no alternative but their continued presence,” added Mukundan.
However, there has been an increase of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, off the west coast of Africa, where 32 attacks, including five hijackings, have been reported this year, compared with 25 in 2011.
“Off Nigeria alone there were 17 reports, compared with six in 2011,” said the IMB. “Togo reported five, including a hijacking, but had none last year.”
The IMB emphasised that high levels of violence were being used against ships’ crew in the Gulf of Guinea. Guns were reported in at least 20 of the 32 incidents and attacks by armed pirates in skiffs were occurring at greater distances from the coast, suggesting the possible use of fishing or other vessels to reach targets.
Within a five-minute period on 30 June this year, three vessels were fired on, including a tanker and a containership, approximately 135 nautical miles from Port Harcourt.