more ships and seafarers than piracy coming
from Somalia, according to a new report by the
International Maritime Bureau (IMB), however,
Somali pirates tend to mete out harsher
treatment to their hostages. The report focuses
on the human impact of piracy.
According to the International Maritime
Bureau’s data, the total number of seafarers
attacked by pirates decreased significantly in
But it says although the number of attacks
decreased, there was a sharp rise in their
reported success rate. That, it says, could be an
indication that piracy tactics have improved.
And, according to the report, the level of
violence has not gone down either.
Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB Piracy
Reporting Center, says all hostages held in
Somalia are considered “high risk.”
“We have had cases of physical torture of the
crew members and psychological pressure
being put upon them. After they are released
from captivity they need a lot of aftercare to
make sure they are able to sail again and that is
not being done in many of the countries that
supply crew members,” said Mukundan.
IMB published the report together with two
other groups – Oceans Beyond Piracy and the
Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response
Program. The report is based on a number of
interviews with seafarers and their families
about the physical and psychological impact of
Mukundan says the IMB and ship owners often
struggle to learn about the condition of sailors
held by Somali pirates.
“There are still crew members who have been
held there for more than two years and there is
still very little information coming out about
where they are, who is holding them, and under
what terms they are going to be released,” said
Seafarers captured off the east coast of Africa
are typically held for much longer than those
captured on the west coast. But the number of
seafarers impacted by West Coast piracy is
In 2012, 966 seafarers were attacked by West
African pirates. Just over 200 were taken
hostage. But, as the report points out, attacks
in the Gulf of Guinea regions have not received
the same level of attention.
The main risk area is off the coast of Nigeria, the
region’s major oil producer. Mukundan says
pirates typically target tankers exporting crude
oil and importing refined petroleum, later selling
the cargo on the black market.
“They don’t steal all the cargo; they steal a part
of it – three or four thousand tons. Once they
have stolen the cargo, then the vessel and the
crew are normally released,” said Mukundan.
And in the Gulf of Guinea region, ships do not
have the protection offered by international
navies that patrol the waters off Somalia.
As a result, seafarers are growing increasingly
wary of working in the Gulf of Guinea region.