Big rise in crew hostage-taking

25 July 2018

The number of seafarers being held hostage by pirates has increased sharply over the first half of 2018, according to a new report from the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

During the first six months of the year, a total of 102 seafarers were taken hostage – up from 63 over the same period in 2017. However, the number being kidnapped has fallen from 41 to 25, and there were no reports of fatal incidents during the first half of the year.

In total, the IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre recorded 107 incidents over the first six months of 2018 – up from 87 in the comparable period last year. There were 23 attempted attacks on merchant ships, 69 cases of vessels being boarded, 11 being fired upon and four hijackings.

The IMB said that all 25 crew kidnappings reported this year have occurred over six incidents in the Gulf of Guinea, highlighting the higher risks in this area. It also warned that the true number of incidents off West Africa is believed to be 'significantly higher' than the 22 reported to the IMB.

The report shows Nigeria as a major hotspot for attacks, with a total of 31incidents in the first half of 2018, followed by Indonesia with 25. The number of incidents in the Philippines dropped from 13 over the first half of 2017 to three in the same time period this year.

There were no reported incidents recorded off the coast of Somalia in the second quarter of 2018. But the IMB urged shipmasters to continue to maintain high levels of vigilance when transiting the high-risk area and to follow the latest version of the best management practices.

IMB director Pottengal Mukundan commented: 'The 2018 figures aptly demonstrate the value of timely and transparent reporting. The reports help to focus on risk areas, and to accurately inform vessels of evolving dangers and allow authorities to deliver an effective response.'