Pirate attacks on merchant ships along the eastern and western coasts of Africa are intensifying and becoming more violent, according to the international maritime watchdog.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The increased threat comes despite many ships employing private armed security guards and boosts in international patrols.
The latest global piracy report from the International Maritime Bureau says attacks worldwide have fallen by almost 30 per cent.
But African waters remain a hot spot for piracy and violent hijackings, especially on the west coast around Nigeria.
"In the west coast of Africa we have seen some very violent attacks including two murders of seafarers on board their ships," Bureau director Pottengal Mukundan said.
"The attacks on the west coast are worrying because it is one of the main oil producing areas of the world and the ships which have been targeted have been oil product tankers."
The report says pirates have struck in international waters 102 times so far this year, down 28 per cent compared with the same time last year.
But Mr Mukundan warns that the Indonesian archipelago is increasingly seeing attacks by small-time sea-faring bandits.
"The Indonesian attacks are, if you like, maritime muggings, where people get on board a vessel, usually at anchorage, and they steal from the ship," he said.
"Sometimes they attack vessels which are underway, and for the duration of the attack, which could be an hour, the ship may not be under its lawful, proper command."
The total cost of piracy was estimated to be between $6.6 billion and $6.9 billion, with 80 per cent of losses faced by industry.
On Africa's east coast, Somali pirates currently hold 15 vessels and 250 crew members, with another 50 crew members being held hostage on land.
Mr Mukundan said that an international strategy was needed to break the business model of the Somali pirates.
"That part of Somalia used to have a thriving fishing industry about 20 years ago," he said.
"If fishermen can fish in security, bring their catch back to Somalia where there are fish processing units which can process the fish and export it, it would make a big difference.
"Australia and all the other countries have a stake in ensuring that these relatively unsophisticated pirates don't hold the shipping industry to ransom in this way, literally."