Are Pirates still really a
We have had a question in about
piracy and is it a real danger anymore - short answer - Yes.
Piracy has always gone hand in hand
with maritime commerce. A ship loaded with merchandise is slow and defenceless,
an easy prey. It does seem that piracy came close to disappearing from the seas
in the middle of the 19th century, thanks to the diligence of the western naval
forces. People had even begun to forget that piracy was a crime, often vicious
and deadly. It was great when The Pirates of the Caribbean films were released
and we all loved Captain Jack Sparrow with his scull and crossbones flag,
dashing hero even?
Piracy has not disappeared: attacks
on merchant ships came to our attention in the 1970's and has continued to rise.
There may be a few rare pirates running up an anchor chain with a knife clenched
between his teeth, but most attacks are by violent armed bands equipped with
There are hundreds of attacks each
year. In 2002 there were 294 attacks, 6 dead, 50 wounded. About 40 men were
thrown overboard were saved but 38 were reported lost at sea. Most of these
attacks were carried out on ships in ports or at anchor but 18% took place on
the high seas. Eleven ships were hijacked and seven others disappeared
completely. Most of the attacks happened in the Far East (67%), particularly in
Indonesian waters, but the Caribbean and the coasts off Africa and South America
are also affected.
Acts of piracy in
In 2008 there was a worldwide total of
293 incidents of piracy against ships, which is up more than 11% from 2007 when
there were 263 incidents reported. In 2008, 49 vessels were hijacked, 889 crew
taken hostage and a further 46 vessels reported being fired upon. A total of 32
crew members were injured, 11 killed and 21 missing – presumed dead. Guns were
used in 139 incidents, up from 72 in 2007.
Gulf of Aden Hot
The increase is attributed to the
number of attacks in the Gulf of Aden with 111 incidents reported on the east
coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. The rise peaked in September with 19
attacks. In October and November there were 15 and 16 vessels attacked
respectively. This is an increase of nearly 200% from 2007. In addition, 2008
saw the largest tanker ever being hijacked by Somali pirates, and successful
attacks being carried out at greater distances from land than in previous years.
All types of vessels with varying freeboards and speeds were targeted. The
pirates boarding the vessels were also better armed than in previous years and
prepared to assault and injure the crew. “We are
encouraged by recent efforts to tackle Somali piracy and hope that more
governments will continue to devote more assets to the region. International
navies are the only ones capable of effective response against piracy in the
region and can help to secure the safety and security of this major maritime
trade route,” said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the ICC International
Nigeria Not Far
Nigeria ranked second in the report
with 40 reported incidents including 27 vessels boarded, five hijackings and 39
crew members kidnapped. The PRC is also aware of approximately 100 further
unconfirmed incidents that have occurred in Nigeria. Under-reporting from
vessels involved in incidents in the Nigerian waters remains a great
Piracy Decline in Other
On the positive side, there have
been declines in other regions. “Indonesia should
be applauded for its sustained efforts in curbing piracy and armed robbery in
its waters,” said Captain Mukundan. “Compared to 2003 when 121 attacks were
reported, there has been a continued year-on-year decline with 28 incidents
reported in 2008, the majority of which were opportunistic, low-level attacks.”
The Malacca Straits has also seen a reduction in
the number of incidents reported, only two in 2008 compared to seven in 2007.
This welcome reduction has been the result of increased vigilance and patrolling
by the littoral states and the continued precautionary measures on board ships.
Bangladesh (Chittagong) and Tanzania (Dar es
Salaam) have shown a few similarities in the method of attacks with vessels at
anchor and those approaching the anchorage targeted. Robbers in Chittagong
mainly steal ship stores while in Dar es Salaam, the cargo is the target. Of the
14 vessels attacked in Dar es Salaam, 12 were container ships. Bangladesh has
shown a slight increase in the number of attacks (12) compared to last year
(10). It has taken the Bangladeshi authorities considerable effort to bring the
number of incidents down and this pressure on the robbers should be sustained.
Shipmasters are advised to maintain strict anti-piracy watches especially while
approaching these anchorage and while anchored.
The modern day
Have we been threatened or felt
A ship en route to Angola radioed
Beez. Our policy is to say we have "a full crew" when asked "how many on board".
Bear did put a cap on a stick and 'walk it up and down' under the shed -
next to his head.
We have A.I.S. and it throws the
person on the other end when you say "Hello so-and-so". From our A.I.S. we can
see the ships course and speed.
In strange or dodgy waters we can put
the radar on and can track vessels, keeping an eye out for sudden changes
in direction i.e. coming toward us for no good reason.
Do we know anyone who has been
attacked? No. We have heard people in marinas talking about a friend of a friend
who has been boarded, bit of fisticuffs, no damage done.
Do we carry weapons? No. There is
always someone 'with a bigger one than us'.
We have no intention of straying near
places like Somalia or any of the current hotspots.
We have heard a serious claim to get
past Venezuela as soon as possible, in the company of like minded yachties, no
lights on and no radio calling. Need to talk to others and take a straw
On balance we lived in Plymouth where
a death occurred at least once a week. We would much prefer to sail the seas
than walk down Union Street in the middle of a Saturday night.
ALL IN ALL
piracy happens and it is a serious threat - it IS a known risk, but,
so is driving up the M5 or around the M25.