Lloyd’s Targets ‘Piracy Hot Spots’

February 8, 2006

The Piracy Reporting Centre at the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has issued a new report that identifies a number of “piracy hot spots” that have “emerged over the past 12 months” where attacks on shipping have become more violent.

The contents of the report, as cited on the Lloyd’s Website (www.lloyds.com) identifies Iraq, Somalia and Vietnam as areas where there have been “significant increases in the number of pirate attacks this year. The IMB has called on regional governments to tackle the issue.

The bulletin notes: “Piracy hit the headlines last year when a cruise ship was attacked off the coast of Africa by pirates armed with rocket launchers and machine guns.” However, it also indicates that “despite a rise in attacks in some areas, the number of reported incidents overall fell in 2005 from 329 in 2004 to 276 in 2005, the lowest recorded figure in six years.”

That’s the upside, but the downside is the emergence of “a number of new hot spots. Somalia recorded 35 reported attacks in 2005 compared to just two in 2004 – making Somali waters the most dangerous in Africa. In Iraq, 10 attacks were reported in 2005 whereas none were reported the previous year.”

The report said that “most of the attacks in Iraqi waters were carried out with extreme violence. It said that although no crewmembers were killed in acts of piracy last year – 12 people remained missing. Pirates in the area are believed to work from ‘mother ships’ and regularly use guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers to capture vessels which are subsequently taken into Somali waters and held to ransom. The frequency of attacks did however begin to decrease towards the end of 2005, when the presence of foreign naval vessels in the area was stepped up.”

The IMB believes that the overall number of attacks has fallen because of increased awareness, anti-piracy watches by shipmasters in risk prone areas, an increase in law enforcement patrols and mounting pressure on governments to act.

“The drop in the number of reported attacks last year should be seen as a positive sign,” observed IMB Director Captain Pottengal Mukundan. “Some countries are becoming more proactive in their approach to dealing with piracy and armed robbery against ships.” However, he warned that any let up in the efforts of law enforcement agents would see an increase in levels once again.

Lloyd’s notes that the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre “is the only independent centre of its kind in the world. It offers ships and their crews a facility to report pirate attacks at any time and can provide assistance wherever they are in the world, via a single point of contact.”

Neil Smith, manager for Marine, Aviation and Transport at the Lloyd’s Market Association, said that Lloyd’s was working with the market to bring clarity to who pays for the cost of piracy at a time when the nature of the crime is changing. “In October the London market produced a series of wordings which enabled the coverage of piracy to be included in the owner’s war risk policy rather than the hull policy,” he explained. “This has come from the change in the type of attack and the weapons being used by pirate gangs.”

Smith added: “I think as an industry we have been fortunate that we have not seen a major incident arising from piracy. There have been cases where a crew has been overpowered and tied up, and the vessel left to make its way though crowded sea lanes with the crew unable to navigate.”

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