Voice of America (Washington, DC)

15 January 2014

West Africa: Maritime Piracy Drops Dramatically

Piracy off the coast of Somalia dramatically dropped in the last two years, according to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Overall, the IMB says worldwide piracy has reached its lowest level in six years with 264 incidents worldwide in 2013. That marks a 40 percent drop from 2011 since Somali piracy reached its zenith.

"The single biggest reason for the drop in worldwide piracy is the decrease in Somali piracy off the coast of East Africa," said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB in a statement, whose Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) has monitored world piracy since 1991.

According to the IMB, there were only 15 incidents off Somalia in 2013, compared to 75 in 2012 and 237 in 2011. It was the lowest number of attacks since 2006, the IMB said.

Actions by international navies, better equipping ships against pirates and the use of armed security teams aboard ships were cited as reasons for the drop. Additionally, the IMB said another factor was the "stabilizing influence of Somalia's central government."

Still, threats remain.

"It is imperative to continue combined international efforts to tackle Somali piracy. Any complacency at this stage could re-kindle pirate activity," Mukundan.

Other piracy hotspots were still active, according to the IMB. Nineteen percent of worldwide attacks occurred off West Africa, with Nigerian pirates accounting for 31 of the area's 51 attacks. The IMB said Nigerian pirates were involved in incidents as far away as the waters off Gabon, Ivory Coast and Togo.

Off Malaysia, the IMB reported the hijacking of two tankers resulting in the taking of 27 hostages and the theft of the ship's property and cargo.

Indonesian waters continued to be popular hunting grounds for pirates, but while they accounted for 50 percent of all boardings reported in 2013, the IMB characterized the incidents as "low-level opportunistic thefts, not to be compared with the more serious incidents off Africa."

The IMB said attacks off India and Bangladesh were also "low-level and opportunistic," but said attacks off India have increased every year since 2012, with 14 in 2013.

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