Piracy on the world's seas has reached a five-year low, with 297 ships attacked in 2012, compared with 439 in 2011
, the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said Wednesday.
Worldwide figures were brought down by a huge reduction in Somali piracy, though East and West Africa remain the worst hit areas, with 150 attacks in 2012.
Globally, 174 ships were boarded by pirates last year, while 28 were hijacked and 28 were fired on. IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre also recorded 67 attempted attacks. The number of people taken hostage onboard fell to 585 from 802 in 2011, while a further 26 were kidnapped for ransom in Nigeria. Six crewmembers were killed and 32 were injured or assaulted.
"IMB's piracy figures show a welcome reduction in hijackings and attacks to ships. But crews must remain vigilant, particularly in the highly dangerous waters off East and West Africa," said Capt. Pottengal Mukundan, IMB director. The bureau has monitored piracy worldwide since 1991.
In Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, 75 ships reported attacks in 2012, compared to 237 in 2011, accounting for 25 percent of incidents worldwide. The number of Somali hijackings was halved from 28 in 2011 to 14 last year.
IMB said navies are deterring piracy off Africa's east coast, with pre-emptive strikes and robust action against mother ships. So too are private armed security teams and crews' application of "Best Management Practices."
"The continued presence of the navies is vital to ensuring that Somali piracy remains low," Mukundan said. "This progress could easily be reversed if naval vessels were withdrawn from the area."
Since Dec. 31, Somali pirates held 104 hostages on eight ships and 23 more were detained on land, pending negotiations for their release.
Separately on Wednesday, the International Transport Workers’ Federation called on Panama to join the effort to help the recently released crew of the Iceberg 1 to recover from their hostage ordeal
. Twenty-two crewmen of the the Panama-flagged vessel were freed by Puntland government forces after a gun battle with pirates. They endured nearly three years of captivity from Somali pirates, who subjected them to torture, starvation and mutilation, ITF said. One hostage jumped overboard and died, and another is missing.
ITF seafarers’ section chairman Dave Heindel explained, “There is a good understanding across the shipping industry of just how much these seafarers and their families have suffered over the last three years, and it’s no surprise that some people in the industry have offered financial support. However, we’d particularly like the flag state, which in this case is Panama, to join them and us in sponsoring this relief effort.
“It is unfortunate that the flag state has not discharged its duty of care set out by the IMO to these seafarers during their captivity, even though they were serving on a vessel flying its flag. There is now an opportunity for it to contribute to their support and rehabilitation,” he added. - Chris Dupin