Global piracy incidents declined by 50% in the first quarter of the year, thanks to sharp reductions in Asia, the Americas and Nigeria. But the Gulf of Guinea's reputation as a hot spot remains because it accounted for more than half of all incidents and as well as crew kidnappings.
THE GULF of Guinea is still the most dangerous region for seafarers even as global piracy incidents declined significantly during the first three months of 2019.
The International Maritime Bureau said the African region accounted for all 21 crew kidnappings that happened around the globe in the first quarter of the year as well as 22 out of the total 38 piracy incidents.
In the most recent reported case, pirates boarded the Contships-owned 1,118 teu Contship Oak and abducted four crew members off Cameroon on March 30.
On a more positive note, the region fared better than last year when it saw 30 incidents in the first quarter, as piracy in Nigerian waters declined, with 14 incidents recorded last quarter compared with 22 in the first quarter of 2018.
“The IMB PRC commends the Nigerian Navy for actively responding to reported incidents by dispatching patrol boats,” the IMB said in its report.
Nonetheless, the IMB reiterated that Nigerian waters still present a risk for vessels, particularly in the port of Lagos, where four incidents have been reported.
The 38 global piracy incidents that occured in the first quarter present a marked decrease from the 66 during the same period last year. Out of these 38 cases, 27 were vessel boardings and seven saw ships being fired upon.
While the Gulf of Guinea remains a perilous region for seafarers, the first quarter did not include any reported vessel hijackings. This is the first time this has failed to happen in the first quarter of a year since 1994.
Much of the downturn is due to the decline in south east and east Asian waters, as well as off the Indian subcontinent, where incidents fell from 22 last year to eight in 2019.
Despite the overall global improvements, the IMB also warned that the first three months of the year is too short of a period “to anticipate trends over the year”.
“The declining rate of piracy incidents worldwide in the first quarter of 2019 reinforces the importance of transparency, communication and co-ordination, between vessels and coastal authorities,” the IMB said.
The first quarter was also devoid of any incidents in Somalia, whose waters were until a few years ago the most dangerous for seafarers.
Shipping organisations recently reduced the size of the designated high-risk area in the Indian Ocean owing to a decline in incidents.