Sea piracy plunged to its lowest levels in 18 years in 2016, but kidnappings of crew members for ransom is escalating off west Africa and in the Sulu Seas near the Philippinessayd International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
The global maritime watchdog said in its annual report that more crew were kidnapped at sea in 2016 than in any of the previous 10 years, despite global piracy reaching its lowest levels since 1998.
191 piracy incidents were recorded worldwide, down from 246 in 2015 and the lowest level since 1998. It said pirates hijacked seven vessels and held 151 hostages, down from 15 ships and 271 hostages in 2015.
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
IMB director Pottengal Mukundan, whose Piracy Reporting Center has monitored world piracy since 1991, said shipping channels around the world remained under threat from pirates, despite good gains being made in the combatting of piracy.
"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," he said.
"The kidnappings in the Sulu Seas between eastern Malaysia
and the Philippines are a particular concern," he added.
The IMB, which has advised charterers and owners to consider avoiding the Sulu Sea, explained how there has been a rise in attacks where crews are kidnapped from ocean going merchant vessels in the Sulu Sea and then transferred to the Southern Philippines