The Gulf of Guinea and Southeast Asia have seen a significant increase in kidnapping incidents in 2016, according to data released by UK’s maritime intelligence and operations company Dryad Maritime.
The 2016 figures show that 62 people were kidnapped worldwide in comparison to 19 in 2015 and 9 in 2014. While the number of mariners involved is small, compared to those held hostage at the height of the Somali pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean, “it is nevertheless a significant increase,” Dryad said.
Last year alone the number of pirate attacks off Nigeria increased by over 50%, the report further reads. The figure of 49 attacks at sea for 2016 is a marked increase on the 2015 total of 20 attacks. The number of crew kidnapped reached 51, greater than the 31 abducted for ransom a year earlier.
Dryad added that kidnaps in the Sulu Sea and West Africa are likely the result of an increase in the activity of armed groups linked to militant organisations such as Abu Sayyaf whose modus operandi is to ambush ships and seize crew for lucrative ransoms.
“The overall global decline in maritime security incidents last year comes as welcome news to the industry but there is no place for complacency. The rise in the number of kidnaps at sea for ransom continues to pose a significant security challenge to seafarers and shipowners that cannot be ignored,” Graeme Gibbon Brooks, CEO Dryad Maritime, said.
Despite the 12-month spike in kidnappings, worldwide pirate attacks continue to fall as a result of the improved safe guarding of vessels and more efficient international naval patrols. Since 2012 world piracy has steadily dropped off and in 2016 only 191 cases of piracy on the high seas were recorded as opposed to 246 in 2015.
While the Mediterranean remains in the headlines for continued concern over the maritime migration from North Africa, Dryad believes that the end of Daesh/IS territorial control in Sirte is a small sign of improvement in a country that remains wracked by civil war.
Furthermore, the report finds that in the Indian Ocean, piracy has now taken a backseat compared to the risk to shipping from the ongoing conflict in Yemen that has seen ships involved in the conflict attacked and the first alleged Waterborne IED attack of a commercial ship in over 5 years.