Pirate Attacks Grew 36 Percent in First Half 2011
By Peter T. Leach
The Journal of Commerce Online
Somali pirates attack more, succeed less
There were 36 percent more international pirate attacks in the first half of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010, but Somali pirates’ hijacking success has fallen.
Pirate attacks on the world’s oceans totaled 266 in the first six months of 2011, up 36 percent from 196 attacks in the same period last year, according to a report released Wednesday by the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre.
Somali pirates were responsible for more than 60 percent of the attacks, a majority of which were in the Arabian Sea area, according to the report, Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships.
As of June 30, Somali pirates were holding 20 vessels and 420 crew and demanding ransoms of millions of dollars.
“In the last six months, Somali pirates attacked more vessels than ever before and they’re taking higher risks,” said IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan. “This June, for the first time, pirates fired on ships in rough seas in the Indian Ocean during the monsoon season. In the past, they would have stayed away in such difficult conditions."
Although Somali pirates are more active this year, mounting 163 attacks compared to 100 in the first six months of 2010, they managed to hijack fewer ships, 21 in the first half of 2011 compared with 27 in the same period last year. This, the report says, is due to tougher ships defenses and actions of international naval forces to disrupt pirate groups off the east coast of Africa.
In the first six months of 2011, many of the attacks have occurred east and northeast of the Gulf of Aden, an area navigated by crude oil tankers sailing from the Arabian Gulf, as well as other ships sailing into the Gulf of Aden. Since 20 May, pirates attacked 14 ships in the southern Red Sea.
Somali pirates took 361 sailors hostage and kidnapped 13 in the first six months of 2011. Worldwide, 495 seafarers were taken hostage.
Pirates killed seven people and injured 39. Ninety-nine vessels were boarded, 76 fired upon and 62 thwarted attacks were reported.
Ships, including oil and chemical tankers, are increasingly being attacked with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade launchers. Whereas five years ago pirates were just as likely to brandish a knife as a gun, guns were used in 160 attacks and knives in 35 attacks this year.
A surge in particularly violent and highly organized attacks has hit the coast of West Africa this year. The report listed 12 attacks on tankers off Benin since March, an area where no incidents were reported in 2010.