A total of 180 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported in 2017, compared with 188 in 1995

GLOBAL cases of piracy and armed robbery against vessels that were reported to the International Maritime Bureau have dropped to their lowest level in about 22 years, the agency said in a report.

In 2017, the bureau noted a total of 180 incidents reported compared with 188 incidents reported in 1995.

Of the number, 136 ships were boarded, with 22 attempted attacks, 16 vessels fired upon and six hijacked.

The year saw 15 incidents in which a total of 91 crew members were taken as hostages, while in 13 incidents 75 crew were kidnapped. A total of three crew were killed in the incidents and six injured over 2017.

This compares with a total of 191 incidents reported over 2016 with 150 vessel boardings and 151 crew held hostage.

IMB noted in its report that in 2017 the Gulf of Guinea saw 36 incidents with no vessel hijackings, and 10 kidnapping incidents of 65 crew members around Nigerian waters.

Of the 16 ships that reported being fired upon, seven incidents occurred in the Gulf of Guinea.

“Although the number of attacks is down this year in comparison with last year, the Gulf of Guinea and the waters around Nigeria remain a threat to seafarers. The Nigerian authorities have intervened in a number of incidents, helping to prevent incidents from escalating,” said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan.

However, Somalia witnessed a resurgence in piracy attacks, with nine incidents reported in 2017 compared with two in 2016.

The bureau noted that a boxship was hit by armed perpetrators about 280 nautical miles east of Mogadishu. After they failed to board, due to evasive measures taken by the ship, they launched two rocket-propelled grenades that missed their target, before they escaped.

Six of the perpetrators were subsequently apprehended by the European Union Naval Force, sent to the Seychelles and charged for acts of piracy. They face up to 30 years of jail time if found guilty.

“This dramatic incident, alongside our 2017 figures, demonstrates that Somali pirates retain the capability and intent to launch attacks against merchant vessels hundreds of miles from their coastline,” said Mr Mukundan.

In the Southeast Asian region, Indonesia saw 43 incidents reported in 2017 compared with 49 in 2016 as Indonesian marine police ramped up patrols in the nation’s 10 designated safe anchorages.

But the Philippines witnessed a more than twofold jump in reported incidents, to 22 in 2017 from 10 in 2016

“The majority of these incidents were low-level attacks on anchored vessels, mainly at the ports of Manila and Batangas. Vessels underway off the Southern Philippines were boarded and crew kidnapped in the first quarter of 2017,” the report said. “However, alerts broadcast by the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), on behalf of the Philippine authorities, have since helped to avoid further successful attacks.”