Sea kidnappings hit decade high in 2016 amid falling piracy: report

NAIROBI -- More crew members were kidnapped at sea worldwide in 2016 than in any year of the previous decade, despite global piracy reaching its lowest levels since 1998, a report has said.

The International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in its annual report released on Tuesday that it recorded 191 incidents of piracy and armed robbery on the world's seas last year.

According to the report, 150 vessels were boarded, 12 vessels fired upon and seven hijacked, while 22 attacks were thwarted. The number of hostages fell to 151.

"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," said the report.

The report said pirates kidnapped 62 people for ransom in 15 separate incidents in 2016. The maritime kidnappings showed a threefold increase from those in 2015.

Over half of them were captured off West Africa, while 28 were kidnapped from tugs, barges, fishing boats, and more recently merchant ships, around Malaysia and Indonesia.

The IMB, which has monitored world piracy since 1991, said the kidnappings in the Sulu Sea between East Malaysia and the Philippines were a particular concern, calling on ships to stay vigilant in high-risk areas.

In Somalia, the report says three crew members are still being held by pirates, their conditions unknown. The IMB recorded two attempted incidents in 2016 off the coast of Somalia.

"Attacks related to Somali pirates have reduced. However, the risk of being approached or attacked still exists," the report said, urging foreign vessels not to be complacent as they transit the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Analysts say the combined military onslaught and a host of economic incentives targeting jobless Somalia youth have dealt piracy a fatal blow.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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