New statistics from IMB reinforce existing trends, show new ones

The statistics on piracy attacks for the first and second quarters of 2010 have been released.  They contain data that shows the Somali pirates are expanding their capabilities to conduct long-range operations and avoid the multinational naval force patrols.

The first two quarters of 2010 have resulted in 196 incidents of armed robbery and piracy, compared to 240 incidents during the same period in 2009 (-44).  A total of 597 crewmembers were taken hostage in these attacks and 16 were injured.

The 18.3% decline in total attacks is attributed to events two areas:

  • Attacks in the Gulf of Aden dropped to 33 from 86 in 2009 (-53).  This is attributed to the affects of the naval patrols and the adoption of best practices by ship owners; and
  • Attacks have also decreased off the coast of Nigeria, although the IMB knows that many attacks in this area go unreported.

Increased activity in other areas, some of which is very significant, detract from the positive news.

Somali pirates continue to expand their area of operations.  A hijacking has taken place beyond longitude 69◦ east and an attempted attack occurred at 12◦ south.  The IMB has expanded the area to be avoided to 70◦ east and 10◦ south, with the acknowledgement that attacks are already occurring outside of these bounds.  Most of the attacks by Somali pirates now involve weapons and their escalation in the use of force continues.

The impending monsoon season offers some hope of a reduction in pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean, although this generally means an increase in attacks in the Red Sea.

Another trend is the increase in attacks in the South China Sea, which have more than doubled to fifteen attacks from seven over the same period last year.

Chemical and product tankers are continuing to be a favoured prey of pirates, with 51 being attacked.  An increase from 21 in 2008, to 39 in 2009 (+86%), to 51 (+31% from 2009) in the first half of 2010 indicates that these ships are both valuable and vulnerable.

In a separate report, JoyoNews quoted a 28 July report from Platts Commodity News ( that states: “Pirate attacks on tankers in Asia have jumped by a whopping 127% in the first half of this year…”  The knowledge that small tankers are easy prey and quickly ransomed for good prices has obviously spread outside of the Indian Ocean.  The pirates are showing their ability to learn from each other and adapt their operations to changing circumstances.