Report Highlights

  • Decreased vigilance and deterrence in high risk areas is providing pirate networks with the opportunity to attack vulnerable vessels, especially off the Horn of Africa.
  • Kidnap for ransom attacks in the Sulu and Celebes Seas in South East Asia have significantly increased in 2016.
  • West Africa, and particularly the waters off Nigeria, continues to be an area of concern as the number of piracy attacks almost doubled from 2015.
  • The first ever analysis of the human cost of piracy and armed robbery in Latin America is included in this year’s study.

Piracy and armed robbery at sea in West Africa markedly increased in 2016. Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) recorded 95 incidents overall, compared with 54 in 2015. That also led to a significant increase in the human cost, with 1,921 seafarers being affected compared with 1,225 in 2015.

OBP notes that piracy and armed robbery around the Horn of Africa have decreased considerably. For 2016,  129 incidents of piracy and robbery have been reported in Asia. For the purposes of this report, OBP defines the Asia region as spanning the area from the eastern coast of India to the Banda Sea in Indonesia.

The shipping industry had to address very different challenges in West Africa in 2016. With the exception of Nigeria, the number of attacks against merchant vessels remained relatively constant compared with previous years. Moreover, many of these attacks were non-violent robberies, which may have a psychological impact on seafarers, yet the occurrence of physical violence was very limited.

 

Pirate Activity

  • The number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea that OBP recorded in West Africa increased from 54 in 2015 to 95 in 2016.
  • As in 2015, there was only one incident of hijacking for cargo theft which reflects a shift towards the kidnap for ransom model which requires less organization and is less risky for pirates.
  • Violent attacks were more concentrated in Nigerian waters than in previous years, highlighting that piracy and armed robbery at sea in West Africa is strongly influenced by the domestic security situation in Nigeria.

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For most of 2016, monthly incidents averaged between zero and four. No successful hijackings were recorded by OBP in 2016; the last known hijacking incident before 2016 was the attack on Muhammadi in November 2015.

Pirate groups continue to test the defensive capabilities of ships transiting the region, as evidenced by the 11 reported incidents deterred by armed security teams. While deterrence by armed teams can normally be accomplished by a show of force rather than actual engagement, in two of these cases, the attackers fired on the vessel before eventually aborting.

The 2016 incidents demonstrate that pirate groups still possess both capability and desire to carry out acts of piracy, as evidenced by the March 2017 hijacking of MT ARIS 13. The political and economic conditions onshore which allowed and encouraged piracy off the coast of Somalia to flourish less than a decade ago have seen negligible improvements.

 

Pirate Activity

  • In 2016, no hijackings were recorded, but several suspicious incidents indicate that the capability and intent of pirate groups remain. The opportunity to commit acts of piracy continues to increase as vigilance by the shipping community decreases. This trend has been underlined by recent events and attacks in early 2017.
  • Pirate gangs and kingpins have been involved in a diverse array of illicit maritime activities that have helped to fund piracy activities in 2017.
  • The socio-political environment in Somalia(including lack of economic opportunity, lack of governance and lack of law enforcement capability) that initially allowed piracy to flourish remains largely unchanged, particularly in the traditional pirate safe havens.

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Pirate Activity

  • 2016 saw a substantial increase in the number of kidnappings that occurred in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, prompting the establishment of coordinated maritime patrols by littoral states.
  • The number of overall incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea recorded by OBP in 2016 decreased by 35% compared to 2015, highlighting the importance effectiveness of regional cooperation and information sharing mechanisms.
  • The number of hijackings for cargo theft incidents recorded by OBP decreased from 12 in 2015 to just three in 2015.

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In response to a number of documented violent incidents, Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) has expanded its State of Piracy analysis to include incidents of piracy and armed robbery in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean in 2016.

Recent attacks on passenger vessels traversing inland waterways have affected crews and passengers alike, and the number of attacks on yachts at anchorage and in open water is concerning. This region presents a unique set of challenges because of the frequency of attacks on yachts rather than the mostly merchant vessels observed in other regions.

As 2016 is the first year OBP has included the region in its global analysis, it is too early to discern trends from year to year or determine particular vessel vulnerabilities. However, the level of violent criminal activity observed in 2016 certainly warrants more attention from the international community.

Further information may be found by reading OBP's full report here.

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