Waters off Nigeria and the southern Philippines continue to pose a significant threat to seafarers according to Dryad Maritime. In the company’s most recent report which reflects on 2016, 62 people were kidnapped worldwide in comparison to 19 in 2015 and only 9 in 2014. While the number of mariners involved is small compared to those held hostage at the height of the Somali pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean, it is nevertheless a significant increase.
Last year alone the number of pirate attacks off Nigeria increased by over 50%. The figure of 49 attacks at sea for 2016 is a marked increase on the 2015 total of 20 attacks. The number of crew kidnapped (51) is also significantly greater than the 31 abducted for ransom the previous year.
Dryad maritime reports that kidnaps in the Sulu Sea and West Africa are likely the result of an increase in the activity of armed groups linked to militant organisations such as Abu Sayyaf whose modus operandi is to ambush ships and seize crew for lucrative ransoms.
Graeme Gibbon Brooks, CEO Dryad Maritime;
“The overall global decline in maritime security incidents last year comes as welcome news to the industry but there is no place for complacency. The rise in the number of kidnaps at sea for ransom continues to pose a significant security challenge to seafarers and shipowners that cannot be ignored.”
Despite the 12-month spike in kidnappings worldwide pirate attacks continue to fall as a result of the improved safe guarding of vessels and more efficient international naval patrols. Since 2012 world piracy has steadily dropped off; in 2016 only 191 cases of piracy on the high seas were recorded as opposed to 246 in 2015.
“Certain shipping routes remain dangerous and although the continuing decline of piracy is good news, the escalation of crew kidnap for ransom is of extreme concern,” Graeme added.
While the Mediterranean remains in the headlines for continued concern over the maritime migration from North Africa, the end of Daesh/IS territorial control in Sirte is a small sign of improvement in a country that remains wracked by civil war. In the Indian Ocean, piracy has now taken a backseat compared to the risk to shipping from the ongoing conflict in Yemen that has seen ships involved in the conflict attacked and the first alleged Waterborne IED attack of a commercial ship in over 5 years.