By VICTOR KIPROP
NAIROBI - The number of piracy incidents on the East African coastline has tripled in the past three years.
According to a new report by the international maritime body One Earth Future (OEF) titled “The State of Piracy,” there were 54 piracy incidents on the East African coast in 2017—more than triple the 16 incidents recorded in 2016.
The report was released this past week by OEF’s Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP). It states that the number of sailors affected increased from 306 in 2015 to 1,102 in 2017, with at least 79 of them injured or threatened in the attacks in which 41 per cent of the attackers were armed.
“Activity in 2017 clearly demonstrates that pirate groups retain their ability to organise and implement attacks against ships transiting the region,” said Maisie Pigeon, the report’s lead author.
According to the report, the growing piracy poses an additional threat to ships transiting the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, which directly affects trade in Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, Egypt and Somalia.
“As in previous years, the capability and intent of pirate networks has not decreased, as was witnessed with the increased number of hijackings, including of the Aris 13, the Asayr 2, and the Al Kausar,” the report states.
The MT Aris 13, a Comoros-flagged merchant tanker, was hijacked by Somali pirates in March 2017, the first off Somali’s coast since 2012.
The spike in hijackings and kidnappings, especially in the first quarter of 2017, was attributed to several factors including decreased adherence to ship self-protection measures such as Best Management Practices (BMP), and the spillover effect from the political conflict in Yemen.
“We are advising our members to consider a more comprehensive security assessment to take into account other threats beyond traditional piracy emanating from the regional conflict in Yemen,” said Phil Belcher, Marine Director of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners.
The economic cost of piracy in the region dropped slightly to $1.4 billion in 2017 from $1.7 billion in 2016, mainly due to a 13 per cent decrease in the use of privately contracted armed security personnel.
The costs had stabilised over the past three years, after a decline between 2010 and 2015, from about $7 billion in 2010 to $1.3 billion in 2015.