Piracy activity in the third quarter of 2016 declined in global hotspots compared to the previous quarter. Southeast Asia and the East Africa and Indian Ocean High Risk Area (HRA) both saw drops in reported piracy incidents. West Africa notably experienced a drop in severe incidents such as attacks and hijackings.
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These findings are reported in the Q3 2016 Piracy Assessment, released by specialist crisis prevention and response consultancy NYA International today.
Despite the quarterly drop, the report notes a high threat of crew kidnapping and hijacking remains in Southeast Asia and West Africa.
In West Africa, piracy activity in Q3 2016 declined in severity compared to the previous quarter, when 16 attacks and nine hijackings were reported. Three attacks and five hijackings occurred in Q3 while 18 criminal boardings were reported. Pirates showed continuous intent to hijack foreign vessels for crew kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG). Nigeria remains the focal area, with all five hijackings occurred in Nigerian waters. Pirates largely operated within 100NM off Bayelsa state aiming to kidnap senior foreign crewmembers for ransom.
Three boardings were recorded in Q3; pirates boarded the tankers BOUBOULINA, HANZE KOCHI and the general cargo vessel VECTIS OSPREY. In these incidents the crew retreated to the citadel and pirates later escaped, likely due to their failure to reach crewmembers. Six fisherman were kidnapped in Nigerian waters during the quarter. All were released after ransoms were paid.
The report also highlighted the continuing threat to maritime and oil industry staff and operations from resurgent militancy in the Delta region. In August the militant group the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) agreed to cease hostilities and support the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in their negotiations with the government. However, despite their agreement the NDA attacked Shell assets in July and September and threatened to target ExxonMobil employees.
Southeast Asia experienced a 22% drop in activity this quarter with a total of 28 piracy incidents reported. Seven hijackings were reported, and three of these were confirmed to have been carried out by the Islamist militant Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and to have involved crew kidnapping.
The report highlighted the continuing threat posed by ASG to slow-moving vessels with low freeboards, such as fishing trawlers, tugs and passenger boats. All seven hijackings reported in Southeast Asia in Q3 2016 targeted these types of vessels, and all except one involved the kidnapping of crewmembers. Consistently, in all hijackings the pirates were heavily armed and were typically numbered four to seven persons.
Just two incidents were reported in East Africa and the Indian Ocean High Risk Area (HRA), where Somalia-based pirate groups frequently operated over the past decade. One of the incidents was initially reported as an attack in the Bab el-Mandeb strait, but was later confirmed by the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) to actually have been an encounter with Yemeni security forces.
The report also describes a number of high-profile court proceedings against suspected pirates in Q3 2016. The proceedings are indicative of a more holistic approach to prosecuting suspected pirates, which commonly threatens to undermine the region’s counter-piracy efforts.
Alex Kemp, Managing Director, comments: “The analysis in the Q3 2016 Piracy Assessment highlights the continuous threat to crew and operations off West Africa and Southeast Asia. Although total incidents were generally lower, the relative impunity with which some pirate groups operate in these regions demonstrates the scale of the challenge facing regional maritime authorities. While it is reassuring to see historically low piracy levels off Somalia and in the HRA following years of effective international counter-piracy and land-based operations, the persistence of the threat in West Africa and Southeast Asia should be noted by ship owners, managers and charterers. The threat of crew kidnapping has not disappeared with the decline in Somali piracy and the importance of security measures such as those specified in BMP4 remain relevant.”
NYA International is a leading global risk and crisis management consultancy. Since 1990 we have helped organisations to maximise opportunities and operate successfully in complex environments around the world. We help our clients to understand the threats and vulnerabilities to their people, assets and international operations, improve their resilience and effectively mitigate and manage a wide range of security-related problems and crises. NYA has one of the largest specialist response teams in the industry and experience of advising on around 80-100 crisis incidents each year.