Kidnappings at sea hit a 10-year high in 2016 despite piracy attacks as a whole falling to their lowest level since 1998, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
Last year saw a tripling in the number of seafarers kidnapped for ransom by pirates with a surge in such attacks in the Sulu Sea between East Malaysia and the Southern Philippines.
According to the IMB, pirates kidnapped 62 seafarers in 2016 in 15 separate incidents. West Africa remained a hotspot for kidnappings with 34 of the 62 kidnappings taking place in the Gulf of Guinea, but it is the sharp rise in such attacks off Malaysia and Philippines that has drawn particular concern.
There were12 crew members kidnapped from three vessels in the Sulu Sea in the last quarter of the year.
“The kidnappings in the Sulu Seas between eastern Malaysia and the Philippines are a particular concern,” said Potengal Mukudan, director of the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre.
IMB said it advises charterers and owners to consider avoiding the Sulu Sea by routing vessels West of Kalimantan. Mukundan said shipowners should avoid high risk area.
“Shipmasters should follow the latest best management practices and where possible take early action to avoid being boarded. They should inform the IMB PRC or regional counter piracy centres for help and advice,” he said.
There was also an increased use of guns in attacks with 48 reports of the use of guns in 2016 compared to 33 in the previous year.
Overall though the number of piracy attacks globally dropped to an 18 year low with 191 attacks compared to 246 in 2015.
“The continued fall in piracy is good news, but certain shipping routes remain dangerous, and the escalation of crew kidnapping is a worrying trend in some emerging areas,” commented Mukundan.
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