Piracy has reached its lowest levels in six years, 264 attacks recorded worldwide in 2013 representing a 40% drop since Somali piracy peaked in 2011, according to the latest statistics from the International Maritime Bureau.
Just 15 incidents were reported off Somalia in 2013, down from 75 in 2012 and 237 in 2011.
However, the IMB’s annual global piracy report reveals that more than 300 people were taken hostage at sea last year and 21 were injured, nearly all in incidents involving guns or knives.
Last year saw 12 vessels hijacked, 202 boarded and 22 come under fire. An additional 28 vessels reported attempted attacks.
The IMB said several particularly violent attacks involved pirates from Nigeria, where one seafarer died and 36 were kidnapped and held for ransom on shore.
Nevertheless, IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said the fall in Somalia-based attacks off east Africa was the main reason for the drop in worldwide incidents.
Of 15 incidents attributed to Somali pirates in 2013, two involved hijacked vessels being released within a day as a result of naval actions. A further eight vessels came under fire.
These figures are the lowest reported since 2006, when 10 Somali attacks were recorded.
West African piracy accounted for 19% of attacks worldwide last year.
Nigerian pirates and armed robbers accounted for 31 of the region’s 51 attacks, taking 49 people hostage and kidnapping 36, more than in any year since 2008.
Pirates from Nigeria ventured far into waters off Gabon, Ivory Coast and Togo and were linked with at least five of the region’s seven reported vessel hijackings.
Off Nigeria itself, two ships were hijacked, 13 were boarded and 13 came under fire.
In Malaysian waters, there were reports of two hijackings involving product tankers, 27 crew were taken hostage and ships’ property and cargo were reported stolen.
In Indonesian anchorages and waters, the IMB reported several “low-level, opportunistic thefts, not to be compared with the more serious incidents off Africa”, but that accounted for more than 50% of all vessels boarded in 2013.
Here, armed robbery also increased for a fourth consecutive year. More than a third of Indonesia’s incidents were reported in the last quarter of 2013.
IMB described attacks in India and Bangladesh as “low-level and opportunistic”. Incidents off India have increased year on year since 2010, reaching 14 in 2013.
However, IMB said patrols by the Bangladesh Coast Guard had limited the number of incidents off Chittagong to around 12 for the last few years.
For more maritime news see Lloyd’s List