It’s very likely that 2010 will be a record year for maritime piracy. There are fears that this year could see the largest number of hostages and vessels being captured by Somali pirates. This year, a total of 793 seamen have been taken hostage by Somali pirates off the coast of Africa. Last year, 857 seafarers had been captured by Somali pirates. We still have more than a month to go for the end of 2010.
What is worrying is that the number of crew members kidnapped and ships hijacked by Somali pirates, increased through the first nine months of 2010. The total number of attacks by Somali pirate gangs has declined. However, the bad news is that these gangs are also becoming increasingly violent.
According to a report by researchers at the University of Greenwich in London, more companies have been able to implement better piracy management practices and risk assessment techniques, helping them keep their vessels and crews were safer. These companies are now better able to thwart pirate attacks. However, pirate gangs are also now increasingly using violence during attacks. Maritime safety analysts have noticed more and more attacks involving pirates using automatic weapons to fire on vessels to force them to stop.
Recent attacks have involved the use of rocket-propelled grenades. Last month, a pirate attack on a Liberian-flagged vessel involved the use of rocket-propelled grenades. The crew of 24 was taken hostage.
Already this year, there have been 140 attempted hijackings. That is a decline from 217 last year. However, many of these unsuccessful hijackings are not being reported because many vessels are now able to successfully foil attacks. The actual number of attempted pirate attacks is probably higher.