Pirate attacks off east African coast fall, rise off west Africa

18 October 2012 17:29  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Pirate attacks off the east African coast have fallen as a result of added security measures, a caustic soda buyer in Kenya said on Thursday.

"One ship was recently attacked but it escaped. Due to security on the ships the pirates have not been so successful [this year]," the buyer said.

The vessel the buyer described is the Spanish-owned fishing vessel Izurdia which is now continuing its journey towards the Seychelles islands. It was attacked by a small number of pirates but security guards on board were able to repel the attack.

In addition, Somali pirates released a vessel that carried steel coils from the Black Sea to an undisclosed location on 12 October for a ransom of $2.3m (€1.7m). The ship had been in the pirates' hands since 7 February 2012.

According to maritime agencies, so far this year pirates have seized five ships off the east coast of Africa, down from 47 in 2010.

However, while pirate attacks off the coast of east Africa start to decline, hijackings off the Nigerian coast are on the increase. A report by a maritime agency suggests these attacks are different because pirates attacking off the west coast target oil, fuel and other chemical tankers for their cargo and not for ransom.

"What is worrying about the illegal theft and transfer of gasoil cargoes from hijacked ships in the Gulf of Guinea is that it does not appear that these are opportunistic attacks," the International Chamber of Commerce's (ICC's) Commercial Crime Service (CCS) said in a report.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), this year 43 vessels were attacked off the west coast of Africa.

In August, a Russian tanker called Energy Centurion was hijacked and released after some of its cargo was stolen by pirates. In the same month, a British tanker called Anuket Emerald was taken by pirates off the west coast of Africa. Pirates released it five days later after they stole its cargo.

On 6 October, a fuel tanker called Panamax was hijacked with 24 crew members on board. The pirates released the tanker and crew unharmed on 9 October after stealing about 2,500-3,000 tonnes of gasoline. In the same month, a vessel called Bourbon Liberty 249 with eight crew members on board was hijacked off the coast of Nigeria. The ship was used by the Nigerian oil industry.

The increased pirate attacks are pushing freight costs up as insurance companies increase premiums and also because vessels need to hire security personnel to protect crew and cargo.

"These are well organised and resourced criminals. If the law enforcement agencies of the coastal countries in the Gulf of Guinea do not take determined action to arrest and prosecute them, they may find they have a growing criminal phenomenon taking root in coastal communities which they are unable to bring easily under control," the ICC said.

($1 = € 0.76)

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By: Janos Gal
+44 208 652 3214

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