Danger in the Seas: Maritime Kidnapping on the Rise

Feb 16, 2017News

The latest International Maritime Bureau (IMB) report on piracy released last month reports that while global piracy has reached its lowest levels since 1998, kidnappings at sea were higher than the last 10 years.


In its 2016 report, IMB recorded the following:

  • 191 incidents of piracy and armed robbery
  • 150 illegally boarded vessels
  • 12 were fired upon and seven were hijacked
  • 22 attempts were thwarted
  • 151 hostages were taken worldwide


Maritime kidnapping showed a 3-fold increase compared to 2015 with 63 people held for ransom in 15 incidents in 2016. Many were captured in West Africa, while 28 were captured from tugs, barges, fishing boats, and merchant ships surrounding Malaysia and Indonesia.

Areas of concern include: the Sulu Sea (between East Malaysia and the Philippines), Nigeria, Somalia, West Africa, Indonesia, and Peru.


An emerging area of concern: Asia

Southeast Asia is fast becoming a hot bed of piracy, eclipsing Africa after a multinational crackdown in that region. According to the IMB, in 2015 there were 178 attacks in Southeast Asia and none in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea near Somalia. In the first half of 2016, Southeast Asia accounted for more than one-third of the 98 attacks attempted globally.

Abu Sayyaf, an extremist group based in the southern Philippines, is responsible for most of the kidnappings at sea in Southeast Asia acting as a hostage-for-ransom gang, but several other gangs also operate in the region.

Since global fuel prices have been in a steady decline in recent years, many gangs are targeting ships carrying valuable commercial cargo instead of oil tankers with the hope of selling the good on the black market.


Where does the IMB fit into this?

The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center (PRC) has monitored world piracy since 1991. Prior to 1991, many shipmasters and operators had no options when their ships were attacked, robbed, or hijacked, in port or out at sea. Many times, local law enforcement paid no attention and ignored the problem.

Since its inception, the PRC has offered 24-hour, free support and service for shipmasters to report piracy, robbery or stowaway situations. It is considered a non-governmental agency and is based in Kuala Lumpur. Their goal is to raise awareness within the shipping industry of high-risk areas where pirate attacks and kidnappings occur.

The PRC serves as a point of contact for shipmasters worldwide whose vessels have been attacked or robbed. Any information the center receives is immediately communicated to local law enforcement and is also broadcasted to all vessels in that region to protect others from related incidents. Over the years, the PNC has been able to identify piracy trends and shifts in international patterns, alerting industry bodies and helping to reduce its effects on crews, vessels, and cargo.

“IMB strongly urges all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB PRC. This first step in the response chain is vital to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle piracy. Transparent statistics from an independent, non-political, international organization can act as a catalyst to achieve this goal.”

– (https://www.icc-ccs.org/piracy-reporting-centre)


How to be prepared

Aside from firearms, there are many devices on the market that are manufactured with the intention of protecting cargo while at sea including long range acoustic devices, water cannons, anti-piracy laser devices, electric secure fences, and anti-boarding devices. Click here for more detailed information on products such as these.

Marine security companies can also complete audits of a vessel’s security and help prepare the crew for any potential high-risk scenarios at sea. Private armed security forces can also be hired and present on carriers entering regions of serious concern.

Ships should always stay vigilant in high-risk areas and follow the most up-to-date management practices, taking action ahead of time to prevent any attacks. Make sure crew members aboard the vessel have received adequate training and are ready for anything that may occur in the open sea.

Stay on top of current trends, warnings and the most immediate information by visiting the IMB Piracy Reporting Center.










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